Stress is as old as mankind. But the term stress was only applied to the human condition in the 1930s by Hans Seyle, a Hungarian medical doctor and researcher. Seyle observed patients often exhibiting identical symptoms: ulcers, high blood pressure, arthritis, kidney disease and allergic reactions. He called their condition General Adaptation Syndrome (GAS), a response of the body to the demands and challenges placed upon it.
Fortunately, Seyle did not stick to referring to this as GAS! Instead, he turned to an acronym from the engineering world that referred to the load-bearing capacity of a structure. Seyle speculated that when it came to load-bearing, human beings similarly had a limited capacity. Hence, while some patients would get sick from the psychological impact of life circumstances, others seemed to adapt adequately to the same conditions.
Originally, STRESS stood for…STRuctural Engineering System Solvers. For example, what kind of weight could a bridge sustain? How fast and what volume of water could flow under the bridge without causing damage? What kind of hurricane force winds could push against the bridge and it would remain steadfast?
In the 1960s in the USA, a new word emerged describing the impact of circumstances, demands and challenges on the human experience. When a person had endured too much, they would refer to the experience as burnout—a term that came out of the drug culture of the time. Today, however, it is used loosely in reference to a person who has come to a point of exhaustion from an excess of exposure to stressors.
Originally, burnout referred to…a person who had experienced too much illegal drug abuse
In order to recover from stress or burnout, we must assess the nature and cause of the depletion. To effectively navigate the challenges before us and manage the stress, we must accurately discern the exact nature of our stress.
In his book Reaching Full Strength in Every Area of Life: The Complete Survival Guide for those who Serve in Ministry & Other Vocations of Helping People, Denny Howard identifies the following types of stress and the ways they manifest. In the programs that follow, we’ll take a deeper look at each of these. We’ll also explore ways to manage each type of stress.
- Potent Stress
- Persistent Stress
- Perceptual Stress
- Pervasive Stress