Defining Stress and Crisis


One of the most overwhelming parts of life is when stress or crisis attack us. Stress and Crisis often feel like we are under attack because it produces confusion in our attempt to have a life of stability and order. These twins of chaos have two different ways of appearing in our lives and can have a devastating and destructive impact on our lives and our relationships.

Stresses are those small drumbeats of daily circumstances that chip away at the foundation of stability in our lives. Stress ranges from junk mail/robo-calls; burning the toast; things that break or don’t work the way we want/need to rude or disrespectful interactions; conflict in work or family relationships; betrayals & destructive relationships.

Crisis is the bigger events of life that crash on us like a tsunami. These events are often unpredictable traumatic events that catch us by surprise. They overwhelm the internal resources in us that would normally help us effectively deal with the event.   

We often joke about Murphy’s Law- If anything can go wrong, it will go wrong at the least opportune time. This may bring a smile to our face; however, this may be a pattern of thought that increases your stress.

How can that be? It’s only a funny saying, right?


New research from Concordia University is expanding our knowledge of how optimists and pessimists each handle stress by comparing them not to each other but to themselves. It tells us that the “stress hormone”, cortisol is more stable and better managed by those who view life from a more optimistic way.

The outlook on life, is called explanatory or attributional style. In other words, how does a person explain or what does a person attribute the events that happen in their life.


“Explanatory style” or “attributional style” refers to how people explain the events of their lives. There are three facets of how people can explain a situation. This can influence whether they lean toward being optimists or pessimists:

  • Stable vs. Unstable: Can time change things, or do things stay the same regardless of time?
  • Global vs. Local: Is a situation a reflection of just one part of your life, or your life as a whole?
  • Internal vs. External: Do you feel events are caused by you or by an outside force?

Optimists explain positive events as having happened because of them (internal). They also see them as evidence that more positive things will happen in the future (stable) and in other areas of their lives (global). Conversely, they see negative events as not being their fault (external). They also see them as being flukes (isolated) that have nothing to do with other areas of their lives or future events (local).


Pessimists see positive events as flukes (local) that are caused by things outside their control (external) and probably won’t happen again (unstable). They believe that negative events are caused by them (internal). They believe that one mistake means more will come (stable), and mistakes in other areas of life are inevitable (global), because they are the cause.


In fact, there are many benefits of optimism. The benefits include superior health, greater achievement, resilience, emotional health, increased longevity and less stress.

Next, Strengths Pessimists use in approaching Stress and Crisis.

References (n.d.). (n.d.).

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