The most commonly accepted definition of stress is that it occurs when a person believes that “demands exceed the personal and social resources the individual is able to mobilize”. When people feel stressed, they have made two main judgments: First, they feel threatened by the situation, and second, they believe that their capabilities and resources are not enough to meet the threat. How stressed someone feels depends on how much damage they think the situation can do them, and how closely their resources meet the demands of the situation.
Perception is key to this as (technically) situations are not stressful in their own right. Rather it is our interpretation of the situation that drives the level of stress that we feel. Quite obviously, we are sometimes right in what we say to ourselves. Some situations may actually be dangerous, may threaten us physically, socially or in our career. Here, stress and emotion are part of the early warning system that alerts us to the threat from these situations.
Very often, however, we are overly harsh and unjust to ourselves in a way that we would never be with friends or co-workers. This, along with other negative thinking, can cause intense stress and unhappiness and can severely undermine self-confidence.