During the annual American Psychological Association convention last week a presenter talked about stress and anxiety in a different way. Lisa Damour, PhD is in private practice and writes a column for The New York Times. She believes people think of stress and anxiety as negative concepts. Dr. Damour discusses psychologists knowing stress and anxiety are one. However, at times, stress and anxiety can play a positive and helpful role in our daily lives. Here is an interesting article about the topic and her presentation. https://www.apa.org/news/press/releases/2019/08/stress-anxiety
“Many Americans feel stressed about being stressed and anxious about being anxious. Unfortunately, by the time someone reaches out to a professional for help, stress and anxiety have already built to unhealthy levels,” said Lisa Damour, PhD.
In general, stress happens when people are running at maximum power for too long. People tend to keep going not allowing enough downtime or self care. As a result, we push forward and stretch beyond our limits. Dr. Damour considers stress a part of everyday life, no matter how old you are. However, when working at the edge of our abilities we tend to build up our capacities and ability to moderate stress. As a result, this leaves us with higher resilience when we are faced with new challenges.
Dr. Damour reveals anxiety is also getting a bad name. She describes anxiety as the “inner alarm system”. This “alarm” turns on when a car unexpectedly swerves toward us. Another example being when we procrastinate too long and the “alarm” forces us to get into gear. Perhaps if we see anxiety as somewhat helpful and having protective features it will allow us to make good use of it! For instance, bringing an awareness to teenagers of their own feelings of anxiety in situations. This awareness can serve useful as the anxiety may be alerting them there is a problem or danger.
Please understand none of this should translate as stress and anxiety are not harmful. We need to be very aware of the unhealthy amounts of both of these. People (especially our youth can only handle so much of these before moving from psychologically helping to psychologically harming. For instance, when anxiety starts sounding the alarm for a small quiz in school. Or if someone feels routinely anxious for no reason at all. If stress and anxiety is left untreated it can cause chronic mental hardships. As a result, this can contribute to additional psychological symptoms including depression.
Is you or your child overwhelmed by an unhealthy amount of stress or anxiety? Please call or text Therapy SRQ at 941-202-3432 to seek help from a professional.
Lisa is also the author of the book “Under Pressure: Confronting the Epidemic of Stress and Anxiety in Girls.” Her book can be found here: https://www.amazon.com/Under-Pressure-Confronting-Epidemic-Anxiety/dp/0399180052