Managing Acute Stress

Stress is a fact of life

Acute stress is pressure, strain or tension that tends to deform the body causing a mentally, physically or emotionally disruptive or disquieting influence. To its victims it is severe, painful, distressing, confusing, depressing and hard to endure. Its final goal is to murder you.

How you react to problems, challenges or situations that you face, will determine how much stress you experience. It is commonly reported by the experts on stress, that not all stress is bad or fatal. Just like eating is not bad, but eating too much can be fatal.

Stress is a fact of life and an everyday experience that can be of benefit to us. Playing a game of tennis with Junior, my next door neighbour, produces a little stress, which is normal. When we feel sad, angry, jealous or ashamed we experience stress. However, there is a big difference between a little normal every day stress and acute stress. It is acute stress that has caused so much damage to people, to which we will focus our attention.


If you react calmly, patiently, peacefully and with perfect love to
every problem, your stress thermometer will be very low.

If your stress thermometer is too high, you could suffer from major physical sickness, emotional disorder and even experience burn out. Some of the most commonly reported physical sicknesses are high blood pressure, strokes, failure in the kidney and heart attack. Doctors warn us that continuous pressure in any of these four areas will lead to other sicknesses, diseases and eventually death. Acute stress also affects our behaviour. It causes some to increase smoking, drinking, shouting and being angry. It has also destroyed many relationships and caused people to be worried, depressed, frustrated, lonely, aggressive, hostile and suicidal.


I remember clearly when the wiring of my car was completely burnt out. No matter what I did to the car, it would not start. Eventually I called for help and had the whole car rewired. Sadly, many of us experience being burnt out just like this car because of the stress we undergo. Burn out is to become inoperative as a result of acute stress. You are the pilot of your life and unless you take control and steer your life in the right direction, acute stress will take over.


I was with a group of friends celebrating an anniversary when suddenly we began to pick on each other. What a moment of excitement it was. As soon as they started on me, I felt my heart beat rising, my muscles became tense and I began to sweat immediately. It is likely that too much of this excitement would have killed me on the spot. As soon as I realised what was happening, I began to take control of the way I was thinking. My mind was telling my body, “We are under attack! There is a fire! The enemy is here! Get the guns and all the other weapons ready, because we must defend ourselves.” As soon as I told myself, that this was only a game, my whole body began to react differently.

“Burn out.”

Racism, discrimination, and the environment in which you work or live can increase your chances of acute stress. Do remember that children find it much harder to cope with stress than adults. It is therefore your responsibility to create an environment that as far as possible reduces stress. Shouting, screaming, swearing, being abusive and telling your child that you are going to break his/her legs, back or hands does not reduce stress.

If you burn out my friend, you may or may not recover. You have only one life to live, live it wisely. Be at peace with yourself and with others.
In order of priority put numbers beside the area that best describes you.

  1. Do you get angry easily?
  2. Are you always in a hurry?
  3. Do you always shout at your people?
  4. Are you always tired?
  5. Are you an argumentative person?
  6. Do you feel uneasy around others?
  7. Are you generally impatient?
  8. Are you constantly nervous and fearful?
  9. Are you an impatient driver?
  10. Do you feel worthless and depressed?
  11. Are you addicted to alcohol or other drug?
  12. Do you worry about paying bills?

“This way of life will send you to an early grave.”

Go back over the same list and answer the same questions from a different view point.

  1. Why do I get angry easily?
  2. Why am I always in a hurry?
  3. Why do I always shout at people?
  4. Why am I always tired?
  5. Why am I an argumentative person?
  6. Why do I feel uneasy around others?
  7. Why am I generally impatient?
  8. Why am I constantly nervous and fearful?
  9. Why am I an impatient driver?
  10. Why do I feel worthless and depressed?
  11. Why am I addicted to alcohol or drugs?
  12. Why do I worry about paying bills?
  13. What else do I suffer from and why?

Completing these exercises will enable you to accurately identify your strengths, weaknesses and threats.

Being honest with yourself is the first step to recovering from acute stress. Where does acute stress live? Does it live in trees, the air we breathe, the jobs we perform, the traffic jams or our noisy neighbour’s music? No my friends, acute stress lives in its victims. Pay attention to your thoughts, feelings and the words that you speak. “Study to be quiet.”1 In other words, master the ability to be at peace within yourself. Why get angry, frustrated and depressed over something that you cannot do anything about? If you can do something about it, do it.

I often use these two words, “no problem”. It works wonders for me, why don’t you try it. If your fourteen-year-old daughter told you that she was pregnant, you may experience great joy. However, another family may experience acute stress for several months or even years. Our reactions to situations, problems or challenges, are based upon the control that we have over ourselves and the importance, beliefs or values that we put upon them.

Who is in control of you? Is it your situation, or is it you?

To control our lives we need to control our time. To control our time we need to control the events in our lives or adapt to the events that we cannot control, such as death. By adapting positively to events we have no control over and controlling the events we can, will give us freedom from acute stress. Acute stress is real and causes havoc in subtle ways. It has and will continue to produce untold damage to its victims who do not take heed.

By Errol A Williams©

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