Stressors vs. Stress

By Hans Diehl, M.D.

To understand stress, we must recognize a critical distinction: the difference between "stressors" and "stress."Stressors" refer to outside forces that we must deal with. "Stress" refers to the response of the individual to these stressors. It is not so important what happens to us (stressors), but how we relate and cope with it. It is this response to these stressors that largely determines the severity of stress in our lives.


For example: Picture a cranky man walking to work in pouring rain and cursing all the way. What's going on inside this man? Now picture three delighted children playing in the same rain. What is going on inside these children? Who has more stress? The difference is not in the circumstances but in the attitude toward those circumstances.

To cope with the "distress" in your life, your first step is to recognize and identify the significant stressors you are dealing with. Understanding the difference between the stressors and your stress response is of critical importance. What are your 10 leading stressors in your life? Identifying these stressors opens the way for you to begin planning a process of coping with stress.


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