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Understanding Family Stress


To be able to understand what family stress is and how to evaluate it

What is Stress?

What is StressStress is inherent in our day to day lives and is experienced physically as well as emotionally. Stress can originate from within due to an illness or a heightened emotional state. It can also originate from something external such as from one’s environment or social community.

No two people will experience stress in the same way and one’s social/emotional resources can work to buffer or protect against the negative effects of stress. Protective factors can include support from friends/family, from a therapeutic relationship and from participating in healthy activities. An individual’s beliefs play a large role in how one responds to stress. Having those functional supports where the quality of one’s relationships are strong and a person truly believes that help through those supports are available, is an extremely important factor. If a person can identify multiple supports, but the connections with those supports are not believed to be helpful or even accessible, than an individual is more likely to respond to stress in a negative way. Particularly if those connections include verbal, physical, and emotional abuse as well as discounting one’s feelings, behaviors and values.

While stress is commonly perceived as negative, people can do amazing things under slight amounts of stress and it can actually be the driving force that propels you forward to help motivate you. But when the stress is too intense and when you don’t have the right coping skills in place, stress can be overwhelming and debilitating. Stress can produce feelings of anger, guilt, anxiety, and even fear. Too much stress can have negative effects on your physical and emotional well-being, which in turn can severely limit your coping abilities.

What Causes Family Stress?

A variety of factors can contribute to family stress such as stressful life events, finances, insufficient time spent together as a family, mental and/or physical illness, substance abuse, and unhealthy coping mechanisms. It is important to evaluate the type of family stress you are experiencing in order to gain awareness about your specific situation.

Evaluating Family Stress Activity

Instructions: Complete the Family Systems Stressor-Strength Inventory found on the following website on pages 2-6. It would be beneficial if your family member(s) would complete it as well. Scoring information can be found on pages 6-7. Feel free to disregard the clinician items.

Tip: Take the inventory again after completing this course and implementing the various strategies within it to evaluate the progress you have made.

Next Step

Watch the following video to learn more about what causes family stress:

Stress is always negative.

Stress can originate from which of the following:

_______ factors can work to buffer or protect against the negative effects of stress.

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