We feel stress when we think we are not up to a task. Susceptibility to stress differs from person to person.

This is because people perceive and evaluate stressors differently. People who react more sensitively to external stimuli and perceive them more strongly are logically more susceptible to stress.

Subjective stimulus evaluation influences the perception of stress

Sensitivity to stimuli can show up in a wide variety of everyday situations – for example noise or crowds (external factors), but also deadline pressure, being overwhelmed or the social environment (circumstances). Not the objective stimuli, but solely the subjective evaluation of a person influences whether one feels stress or not.

Three personality traits are important for stress perception

A new
However, Carnegie Mellon University in the US state of Pennsylvania has now found that certain personality traits significantly influence our susceptibility to stress. Another finding: People who have a stress level similar to that of their social environment are particularly susceptible to other people transferring their personal stress to them. They let themselves be “contagious” by the stress of their fellow human beings – but only under certain conditions.

As part of their research work, the scientists measured the stress level of 315 people over a period of six months. In addition, they determined the expression of three different personality traits in each individual test person in order to determine a possible connection between a person’s personality and their stress management.

The following characteristics were measured:

  • neuroticism:
    Tendency not to be able to control emotions and to be subject to mood swings
  • Conscientiousness:
    Tendency to control oneself, think carefully ahead and act in a solution-oriented manner
  • locus of control:
    Belief in being able to control a situation

As the researchers write in their report, a low level of neuroticism, a high degree of conscientiousness and a pronounced locus of control contribute to the fact that external stress is significantly less transmitted to the person.

These properties make you resistant to stress

People with a high resistance to stress accordingly testify to:

  • emotional stability,
  • solution-oriented thinking as well
  • the belief that you can significantly influence your own situation.

Another finding of the researchers: The risk of stress transmission is particularly high when a person’s own stress level is comparable to that of their social environment. For example, if work colleagues are equally stressed, they transfer the feeling of stress to each other – and ultimately reinforce it.

The more stress-resistant a person is due to the characteristics mentioned above, the better he can distance himself from the negative influence of the environment.

Vicious circle: Environment influences one’s own feeling of stress

The researchers could not find a clear explanation for the transferability of the feeling of stress. However, they assume that people tend to try to better assess situations based on other people’s reactions. According to the researchers, behind the action of a person observing people in their environment and imitating their behavior is the intention to fit in better socially.

The core finding is that people who are sensitive to stimuli and who feel a lot of stress tend to surround themselves with people who have a similar stress level. This creates a vicious circle that can lead to more stress and strain.

This can help:

  • Become aware of the subconscious mechanisms of stress transmission,
  • to work on one’s own resilience and attitude towards the subject of stress and, for example, to practice solution-oriented thinking and
  • to study the social environment closely.

Consequences of prolonged stress

Constant stress is unhealthy and has numerous physical and psychological consequences. These include:

  • Cardiovascular diseases:
    High blood pressure, risk of stroke or heart attack increases
  • Diabetes:
    Increased insulin release, risk of type 2 diabetes increases
  • Elevated liver values:
    Liver stores fat through increased cortisol release, risk of fatty liver increases
  • Rashes:
    The risk of skin diseases such as psoriasis and neurodermatitis increases
  • Gastrointestinal diseases:
    Risk of inflammation, stomach ulcers, irritable bowel increases
  • Mental illness:
    Burnout, depression, anxiety disorders, obsessive-compulsive disorders, eating disorders

recognize stress

In order to avoid long-term consequences and damage to health, it is important to recognize stress in good time and to counteract it with measures.
Persistent stress is usually noticeable through clear physical signals, including:

  • Permanent exhaustion, chronic tiredness, listlessness
  • Inner restlessness, irritability, depressive mood
  • Difficulty concentrating, forgetfulness
  • Insomnia eg difficulty falling asleep and sleeping through the night
  • Digestion eg pain, discomfort, constipation, diarrhea, heartburn, stomach cramps
  • Food cravings: Food cravings caused by increases in blood sugar and insulin levels
  • Headaches up to migraines: Persistent headaches, stinging, throbbing and pressure in the head area
  • Tension and back and neck pain: Tension and pain in the neck, back and shoulder muscles
  • Rashes, neurodermatitis
  • Cardiovascular problems, e.g. dizziness, high blood pressure, difficulty breathing, tachycardia

Tips: This helps against stress

If you notice that you are permanently stressed, it is important to pull the handbrake and consciously integrate stress-reducing activities into everyday life.
The following measures can be used (also preventively) against stress:

  • Regular exercise:
    Getting physically active several times a week releases endorphins in your brain, which can reduce stress and also regulate sleep-wake cycles.
  • Yoga and Meditation:
    Yoga combines physical activity with relaxing breathing exercises and thus regulates stress and depression. If you meditate, you can also choose from a variety of techniques that will help you to concentrate and calm down.
  • Right nutrition:
    Eat a balanced, plant-based and unprocessed diet as much as possible. Certain stress-reducing foods should also be on the menu regularly. These include oatmeal, nuts, bananas, dark chocolate, avocado or salmon.
  • breathing exercises:
    Conscious breathing has been shown to reduce stress levels in the body. For example, abdominal breathing or breathing methods such as 4-7-8 breathing are helpful.
  • Relaxation methods such as autogenic training and progressive muscle relaxation:
    Autogenic training uses a form of self-hypnosis to put vegetative bodily functions (e.g. heartbeat and breathing) into a state of rest and thus leads to more relaxation. With progressive muscle relaxation, the relaxation is transferred from one muscle group to the next, resulting in further relaxation.

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