Threshold of Stress

I was reminded yesterday when I saw a meme that talked about the threshold of stress.  What is that? I thought to myself, where is mine? The idea of stress having a starting place that is different for each person never really occurred to me; I guess, I never thought about it. However, when I began thinking about this as a real thing, I realize that my threshold is much higher than most people’s.

I grew up in a family that was in crisis a lot; we had mental illness, divorce, addiction, violence, all sorts of things constantly going on from the very beginning.  I definitely became an adult at a very early age, taking on responsibilities and situations that children should not have to deal with.  As an adult, working as a psychotherapist, I often took jobs that were difficult, crisis centers, detention centers, and lots of clients in crisis situations rather than what the business calls the “walking well,” that is your average person with just basic situational issues.  I was often in it, the heavy duty stuff, suicidality, psychosis, addictions, and the works.  So I learned quickly or utilized my childhood stress management skills to help me cope with the stresses that came with these types of positions.  However, as I got older, I realized that maybe that was not handling it as well as I originally thought.  I did not “cope” better, my threshold was just much higher than the average person, and this was not necessarily a good thing.

Looking back on my life, I can see many areas, actually most significant areas where my higher threshold of stress has caused me to stay in abusive or unhealthy situations or relationships a lot longer than maybe someone without these experiences might have.

I have been married twice, both times, I allowed situations that were unsafe, and unhealthy for me to continue because on my scale of stress or crisis it was relatively low compared to some of the other situations that I had endured or experienced.  I discovered this when I was talking to a friend about a situation I experienced with a roommate that I was annoyed with.  The behavior I was describing triggered a response in my friend that really made me think and take a step back.  My friend said, “I don’t know how you put up with that, it would have made me furious and just sick to have to deal with that every day in my home.”  I responded, “Really?”  I was a bit taken aback and I re-evaluated the situation.  This was my first inkling that what I was registering as a level one stressor was for other people a level nine or ten stressor.  It was this conversation that really allowed me to look with new eyes and examine my past relationships and experiences in stressful times.  I realized that indeed, I do tolerate much more than I should, and that my boundary markers needed some serious adjustments.

I also realized that my body was not as tolerant of these high levels of stress as my mind was. Things like heartburn, body aches, weight gain, depression, and anxiety were often associated with high levels of stress that I attributed to other things that were just part of my everyday life, and I had discounted as normal.  When I began actively paying attention to what my daily stresses were and how I was treated and interacted with others in various situations, I began to realize that there were certain people and situations that were flat out causing me to be unhealthy and making me very sick.  There were other people and situations that made me feel good and happy.  I began the task of cutting away at these situations, actively lowering my stress threshold.  Some of these situations were family related and have been quite difficult to lower.  There was certainly an expectation that I would continue to tolerate abusive behaviors from family members.  The response from some family members was flat out anger that I was setting boundaries.  This was some what shocking to me, but helped to reinforce my resolve that I needed to make the changes and it was the healthiest thing I could do for myself.  In fact, there are some family members that I have no or very little contact with because of this.  I am ok with that.

The more I examined my situations, interactions, past experiences, and the more I talked with other healthy friends about their relationships and what they thought was acceptable or not, the easier it was for me to begin to adjust my thinking as to what was a more, “normal” range of stress.  I really needed to have a baseline for comparison, as I had no idea where the healthy line of stress was.

I also have learned that what is someone else’s crisis is not necessarily my own crisis.  This has been so challenging, and really required quite a bit of letting go.  A friend of mine uses the term, “compassionate detachment.”  I love that.  I can still feel compassion and empathy for people, but also be detached and not in their drama.  When a family member is having a psychological break, I don’t have to feel like I am responsible for fixing it.  It is their life, their situation.  I cannot control their behavior, or if they are taking care of themselves to prevent these situations, so I can let it go.  I can say, “I understand that you are going through a hard time right now.”  That is so freeing!

I have to admit, that lowering my threshold is still a challenge. I have to work on it daily and in every situation, evaluate what is best for me, but I am getting better at it.  I believe that this is part of my own healing process and helping me to become healthier both in my mental health as well as my physical well being, therefore adding to my overall spiritual growth.

My wish for you all is the opportunity for self- examination of your own threshold of stress.  Where are you?  Is it at healthy levels?  The more we can investigate our tolerance and lower these levels, the better energetic frequencies and the higher vibrations we can achieve.  This is most desirable for the best health, mind, body, and spirit. Really take a look at what your boundaries are and how you deal with the stressors in your life.  You may be shocked to find that there are some adjustments to be made.

2016 copyright by Katie Pifer

threshold meme


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