Once the audience’s participation died down, Dr. Bevilacqua brought some clarity to the idea of stress- what it is, what causes it and who is prone to suffer from it.
First, he echoed that yes, there are many things that can trigger a reaction through the day. But it morphs into “stress” by meeting several criteria:
- affecting our ability to be productive
That means that while some things may cause discomfort at the moment, it may not actually develop into stress.
Is a trip to the dentist stressful, or just not enjoyable? It becomes “stress” only if the effects of anticipating the visit are over a prolonged period of time and get in the way of other activities.
How about a child’s test? If they are concerned about the test, study, get a little nervous right before, take it, and then go about the rest of the day, then it’s inaccurate to label it as “stress.” But if they constantly worry about that class, get ‘sick’ in order to avoid taking the test and can’t go to rehearsal or practice for another activity due to that event, then yes… it’s stress.
The same stimuli can result in different responses from different people, but stress can happen to any one at any time.
The speaker also said that we tend to do what works for us, so the fact that we — or our children — react in a certain way means that there must be some payoff in the end, or we wouldn’t DO it. Maybe being stressed gets us out of certain things we don’t want to do. Maybe the avoidance and stress of procrastinating is worth it… or for some people, they actually thrive in moments of “stress.” (Which, technically, is NOT “stress” for them, since it does not meet #3 of the criteria… even if it’s “stressful” for outsiders to witness!)
This point is key: we wouldn’t get stressed unless it’s working on some level. Therefore, he said it’s necessary to find a theme in the stress. Is there a certain pattern with the stress of your child? Is it only during high stakes testing? During a social situation? When they go to the other parent’s house? Identifying the cause of the “stress” creates awareness, which is an agent for change.
He also wanted us to realize that our kids learn how to handle situations by watching US. Therefore, if we as parents take a good look at how WE handle “stress,” we may begin to discover why our children are acting certain ways.
Tomorrow, I’ll be writing on his suggestions of what do once you realize the stressors in your child’s life.
Until then, make it your #153Promise to:
- take inventory in your and your children’s lives regarding “stressful” situations
- find the pattern
- realize what reactions result in what payoffs
Rather than focusing on the actual “stress,” try bringing your own clarity to the issues. This process can bring some insight… which can lead to positive change!