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What Is The Stress Continuum?

Life can throw us curve balls, as the past couple of years have certainly shown us. Most of the time however, stressful life events hit us individually at different points in our lives, even when on the face of it, we appear to be outwardly happy and successful. This can make it difficult to know how to recognise and tackle how we are really feeling.

This is where the ‘stress continuum’ comes in. It helps you to move beyond that default ‘I’m fine thanks’ response most of us have when asked how we are, and examine what’s really going on in our heads. It was first developed for use in the US Navy and Marine Corps, to help those working in high-pressure and dangerous positions to deal with stress.

While most of us don’t spend time in military combat, the continuum model is useful for helping to identify and manage mental states that can occur in any occupation or life situation.

The model is a spectrum, with green at one end and red at the other. If we are in the green zone, then we are physically fit, mentally focused, calm, aware of our emotions and those of others, make good decisions, and enjoy life. Those in the yellow zone may sleep less well, be less motivated, more irritable, and lack energy.

Moving along the spectrum, the orange zone is the point where the individual will need some professional help to recover from symptoms such as insomnia, emotional numbness or persistent feelings of shame, rage, or guilt, and a sense of being trapped. Those in the red zone may feel a persistent sense of hopelessness, and be barely able to function.

Talking about stress and emotions doesn’t come easily to everyone, especially if our lives are outwardly successful. By being able to pinpoint your own position on the stress continuum, you will have a toolkit for explaining your own mental state to others. Of course, you also have to find the right person to talk to, and this may well be a personal life coach.

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