The Relationship Between Stress and Mental Health
While stress is not a psychiatric diagnosis, it has a cause-and-effect relationship with mental health conditions. Inadequate management of stress can worsen existing mental health issues.
The Stress Hormone: Cortisol
A certain amount of cortisol, the stress hormone, is essential for survival as it triggers the fight-or-flight response. Issues arise when stress levels remain elevated for extended periods.
Individual Differences in Stress Tolerance
People have varying capacities to handle stress. This is illustrated by the concept of the “stress container,” courtesy of Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) England.
The Stress Container Model
Imagine carrying a container that fills with water, representing daily challenges. The container’s size varies among individuals, symbolizing their vulnerability to stress. Factors like genetics, personality, and past trauma influence this vulnerability.
What Fills Your Container?
Daily stressors, such as conflicts at work or personal responsibilities, can rapidly fill your stress container. Overflows can lead to “emotional snapping,” resulting in both mental and physical symptoms.
False or Blocked Taps
Certain coping mechanisms, like procrastination, can be counterproductive, acting as blocked taps that keep the stress container from emptying.
Effective Water Taps
Healthy coping mechanisms act as effective taps to empty the stress container. These can include a strong support network, a balanced diet, and engaging in hobbies.
The Importance of Self-Care
Self-care is not selfish; it’s essential. Effective self-care helps not only you but also enables you to be a better support for others.
The Role of Open Conversations
While stress is more socially acceptable to discuss, mental health still faces stigma. Talking openly about what fills our stress containers can normalize conversations around mental well-being.
Understanding and managing your stress through the concept of the stress container can improve both your mental and physical health.