How Do I Know If I Am 'Too Stressed' During Major Negative Life Events?

Dr. Kim Lebowitz answers the question: 'Too Stressed, Even In Bad Situations?'

— -- Question: It is understandable that major negative life events create stress for me, but how do I know if I am 'too stressed' in these situations?

Answer: Unfortunately, negative life events is something that we're going to experience at some point in our lives. And we react to stress, whether they're major life events or daily hassles, which are small irritations. In the same way, we have a physiological response to stress, and we also have an emotional response to stress.

We also have a somatic response to stress, which means that stress can interfere with our bodily functions. So when individuals are stressed, it might affect their appetite, their ability to sleep, their level of energy and their fatigue. So those are reactions that can happen to stress combined with emotions which might include sadness, frustration, irritation, maybe even hopelessness, as well as our physiological response to stress, which might include activation of our cardiovascular system, changes in our digestive system, or our immune functioning.

It is normal when individuals have a major negative life event that they're going to respond in those ways: have emotions, have some changes in their sleep or their appetite, and maybe have some physiological or physical reactions to that stress. The stress reaction becomes problematic if it really starts to interfere with an individual's life or becomes sustained over a period of time that's much longer than one would expect given that stress.

So if an individual isn't able to function normally several days after the major life event where their sleep is affected, where their work habits or their ability to take care of themselves is affected, it would definitely be advised to talk to their doctor or mental health professional to help them cope better with that major negative life event.

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