There are many different theories behind what exactly stress is. It’s a dynamic and intangible construct that has been defined thousands of times, with varying and diverse definitions. However, some general theories have arose from this clutter of descriptions. The stimulus theory of stress defines stress as significant, arousal inducing life events that give rise the the stress responses that can damage mental/physical health.
I’ve always been attracted to the stimulus theory of stress because I have personally experienced the legitimacy of this theory. For two years, non-stop, I experienced one significant event after the other. I was scoring impossibly high numbers on ‘stress scales’ that evaluated the number of significant events in my life. If I wasn’t prepping for surgery, I was dropping out of school, or losing friends because I was so ill. To be honest, I don’t want to disclose too much personal information over a blog. But, suffice it to say, I was not only severely ill, but experiencing new, emerging complications almost weekly. Every good news/bad news event was so significant and life altering at that stage of my life, that any kind of news left me tired, weak, frustrated, and defeated. I was so stressed out that I could barely function.
You can look at stress as a response. You can try and give it fancy terms and descriptions. But for me, after experiencing what I described, I have a personal example of how heavily stress is defined by the events that trigger the unpleasant sensations associated with stress. It didn’t matter really how I was ‘looking at life’. I had buffers that could maybe help me deal with the stress. But I was completely at the mercy of those events. Dealing with the stress was an after defense–the stress itself was those events. And I could not stop them from happening.