Stress can be understood in terms of the following models:
Stress can be understood at the simplest level as our minds not having enough time to recuperate or heal following a period of activity. Just as after a very busy day we want to chill out and do nothing physically, we need similar breaks for our minds as well. Unfortunately our minds never rest. Even during periods of rest and sleep the mind is constantly thinking and planning. The only time when our mind rests fully is when it is awake and is in an emotionally neutral state – neither too happy nor too sad. Unfortunately we are always seeking some or the other activity/situation to feel happy thereby giving little time for the mind to heal itself.
Not being able to do what one is capable of or supposed to do can result in stress. This is the opposite of the tiredness model and relates to not doing something rather than doing things. Each individual is unique and it would be reasonable to assume that nature has given each one of us a unique potential to carry out certain tasks in this world. Due to our unique individuality and the situation in this world there are certain things that only we can do. Not doing what we are supposed to do will result in guilt and depression. However it may be a difficult task to know one’s true calling, the purpose why we are here.
Desires are the spice of life, without them we wouldn’t want to live. This makes us invent new desires when the old ones are fulfilled. In fact a desire free state would be the most relaxed state to be in. We do not feel okay when nothing much is happening in our lives. As a result our minds are never free from thinking, planning, seeking, creating new emotions and excitement etc. These apparently positive endeavours also result in stress, which we can describe as a positive stress. If the desires that we carry in our minds are not fulfilled it causes enormous stress, especially if we cannot forgo them or work towards alternative goals in life. If the desires are fulfilled it creates further stress as each desire attained sows seeds for further desires.
Relationships can cause stress in two totally opposite ways i.e. as a result of not feeling connected or feeling isolated and as a result of being in an enmeshed relationship.
Existentialism is a branch of philosophy that believes that stress is an integral part of life and can not be avoided. It goes a step further in saying that the real stress of being a human being is much greater than we normally appreciate.
It is not difficult to understand that apparently life seems unfair. It is difficult to comprehend why people are struck with tragedies, sickness, and financial ruin for no fault of their own. Very carefully planned lives are shattered by the cruel hand of destiny. A good life is guaranteed to no one and in spite of our best efforts, we remain subject to chance and uncertainties. How can we feel secure in this world? We probably live in denial for most of our lives and organise our lives in such a way that we do not confront this existential stress that is linked with our mortality, meaning of life, sense of responsibility, freedom of choice and ultimate fate. According to existentialism a constant awareness of this type of stress is desirable as it makes us more human and our lives richer. Inability to acknowledge and accept this stress can result in clinical anxiety.