Some stress is best left


Quick summary – I have written a lot of blogs about steps that a person could take to reduce their stress and anxiety by simply working on his or herself and his or her relationship with others. There are times in life where the best option might be to find a way to remove your self from the stress-provoking person, place or thing. Stress and anxiety are natural reactions to difficulty and though you can have an affect on your anxiety and stress levels… the human body can only take so much before physical and/or psychological harm occurs. The brain physically adapts to consistent stress by creating more significant or active connections between the stress provoking stimuli and the natural “fight or flight” response… it feels absolutely awful (symptoms of anger, depression and anxiety) to be constantly in the “fight or flight” stress cycle. A person in such a cycle can have the tendency to seek out problems, as they are so hyper vigilant and escalated (increased adrenaline) that they feel like they can’t stop. Unfortunately, though effort and activity might increase, effectiveness in most areas tends to decrease (ration, comprehension, empathy etc).

Adaptive stress – stress sends cortisol and adrenaline shooting through the body which makes your mind and body more ready to react (increase heart rate – muscles engage etc) while it increases your concentration related to the potential threats. You would be better able to flee or fight a threatening animal in such a state.

We react similarly to real threats (a tiger is there you can see it) and to perceived threats (a tiger could be there but I don’t see it).

            – Emotional, cognitive, and physical threats can all induce the stress cycle.

Some symptoms of the stress cycle: anger, hopelessness, headache, digestion issues, irritability, inability to concentrate, racing thoughts, less effective immune system, depression, loss of effectiveness, lower libido, substance problems, weight problems, heart problems, worrying, sleep problems and many more. (Different people have different symptoms)

There are many reasons why a person would stay in a stress cycle.

Many times a person does not hold the ability to remove him or herself entirely from the stress and in these situations it is best if you can take the space you need and continue accessing supports.

  • Issues such as freedom, privilege, oppression, and social justice affect a person’s maneuverability concerning stress.


– Sometimes a person will grow up with stress or will have been in a stress cycle for so long that it feels “normal” to them. These people either consciously or unconsciously seek out stress as that is what feels most familiar.

Once you are in a stress cycle you seem to be more effective at dealing with stressors than with anything else… you therefore seek out stress as that is what your brain believes it is most prepared to interact with.

There are so many people with unhealthy amounts of stress in this country that it is difficult to get a perspective on just how damaging it is.

* Stress is one of the main causes of some of this country’s most severe illnesses including cancer, heart problems, obesity etc.

* You could almost go so far as to say that it is normal in this country to live with unhealthy amounts of stress.

Much of the time you do have a choice, though it is often a difficult choice, to remove yourself from the stressor.

Exercise – questions to ask yourself – keep it or leave it

–         Take a piece of paper and draw a line through the middle of it…

  • One half will be the positives of keeping the stressor or staying in the stressful environment.
  • One have will be the negatives of keeping the stressor or staying in the stressful environment.


List the positives and negatives related to the following themes –

  • The affect on my relationships with family.
  • The affect on my relationships with friends.
  • The effect on my mental health such as hopefulness and a positive attitude.
  • The effects on my physical health such as digestion, doctor suggestions, headaches etc.
  • life goals not related to work… hobbies, recreation, relationships etc
  • life goals related to work… stepping stone, networking, security
  • The effects on spirituality and/or your sense of who you are.
  • The effects on your moral and ethical compass (right and wrong).
  • The effect on your general effectiveness, productivity, and sense of purpose.
  • The positives that could happen if your left the stressor and the negatives that could happen if you left the stressor.


Follow up questions:


Are you staying with the stressor in order to resolve something from your past?


Do your want to leave the stressor, but you don’t know how?


Are you involved with the stressor to make up for all the privileges and benefits you have experienced in life?


Are you doing what you or somebody else told you ‘should do’ or are you doing what feels right?


By staying with the stressor are you enabling the stressor to continue to exist without changing… if you left would the stressor be forced to change into something less emotionally of physically threatening?


Is there a way for you to fulfill the same role or meet the same objectives with less stress?


What do you want in life (list your goals) … how is the stressor helping you… how is it hurting you?

“The symptoms of the stress cycle can make it difficult for a person to see that they have the ability to leave the stressor. Sometimes you must give yourself permission to remove yourself from the stress.”

William Hambleton Bishop is a practicing therapist in Steamboat Springs Colorado.