Stress Tolerance 101

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The idea of stress having a “cause” is a rather strange idea. Stress is perhaps the most responsive of all mental health conditions; anxiety and depression, for example, tend to exist without the need for outside stimulus, but stress usually develops directly
because of outside stimulus. As a result, the “cause” of stress would seem to be easily identified, and it’s often assumed that most people who experience stress can easily determine why - they’ll point to their house move, their relationship break-up, or a particularly busy time at work.

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However, while stress can be caused by an external life event, the correlation isn’t always quite so neat, with an absolutely traceable cause and effect. In fact, you may find that you are displaying the symptoms of stress, but cannot directly link them to an exacerbating event - or even that you can link your stress to such an event, but the event doesn’t quite feel significant enough to warrant the level of stress you are experiencing.

So what’s going on?

It is often theorized that everyone has a stress tolerance level; some people are more resistant to stress than others. For example, one person could undergo an extremely stressful event - such as a house move, which is often described as the most stressful thing anyone can experience - with relatively little concern, feeling and acting entirely as normal. This person has a high stress tolerance.

In contrast, another person may go through a much “milder” life event - increasing their hours at work, for example - and subsequently develops stress. This person has a lower stress tolerance.

Why does stress tolerance vary between people?

There are a number of underlying conditions that can lead to a lower tolerance for stress:

  • Lack of sleep can also cause people to be more easily stressed, which is particularly problematic as higher stress levels can then worsen sleep quality, causing a vicious cycle that ultimately leads to a number of other health issues as you can read about here
  • People with anxiety disorders tend to be more easily stressed; in fact, some people believe stress and anxiety disorders to be two sides of the same coin
  • Many people with undetected and untreated hearing loss often struggle with stress, along with other issues as you can learn more about here

If you experience any of the above issues, you may find that your stress tolerance is low, and thus your stress response is more intense than you often feel is warranted.

Can stress tolerance be improved?

Yes - stress tolerance is not a finite metric that you just have to accept; it can be changed and improved. First and foremost, if you suspect any of the issues above may be lowering your stress tolerance - and thus resulting in you experiencing higher levels of stress - then remedying this issue should be your first priority.

Secondly, general “good living” advice can help to improve your stress tolerance; for example, eating a good diet, exercising regularly, and potentially seeking therapy can greatly enhance your overall tolerance for stress. If you're wondering how much does therapy cost, there are plenty of great resources online that can hook you up with information and therapists in your area as well as online.

In conclusion

Understanding your stress tolerance - and investigating how it can be improved - can greatly benefit your overall ability to control your stress levels. Hopefully, the information detailed above can help you to achieve this goal in the future.


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