You wake up, draw the blinds and see a battleship grey sky with large raindrops falling to the ground. The wind is blowing fiercely. At that moment, you are aware of your muscles getting tight. A frown comes over your face. Suddenly you are not energized about the day ahead. Are you stressed?
Contrast that with waking up drawing the blinds and seeing a rising sun and bright blue sky with a warm breeze flowing. At that moment you begin to smile, notice that you are relaxed a bit and ready for the day to begin. Are you stressed?
Well the answer could be yes to both.
Does everybody deal with stress?
Stress is a fact of life for everybody. We do not escape stress and we all experience it in varying degrees. Stress may come from a single event or it may be an accumulation of everyday hassles.
Good and bad events happen to everyone, but it is how each individual interprets these events and responds to them that affects the levels of stress.
We all know about stress, but yet it is still hard to define even today. While a little stress may improve your performance and mood, high levels or sustained stress may affect you in adverse ways.
Are there different kinds of stress?
Fundamentally, there are two types of stress – eustress and distress.
- Eustress is the positive stress. Hans Selye suggested thinking of eustress as euphoria + stress, hence eu-stress.
- Distress according to Selye is rooted in the Latin prefix dis, meaning bad, and refers to the unhealthy outcomes of stressful events.
Let’s take a closer look at stress. The stress response begins with a stressor or demand which serves as the trigger for a series of mind-body reactions. The stressor is the physical or psychological stimulus to which an individual responds. There are four mind-body changes that constitute the stress response:
- Redirection of blood to the brain and large muscles
- Enabling the Reticular Activating system – heightened sense of alertness
- Release of glucose and fatty acids
- Shutting down of the immune system
The stress response is highly functional when properly managed, leading to eustress and elevated performance. Positive stress maximizes performance, which varies from individual to individual and by tasks. The downside (distress) occurs when the stress response is not well managed, leading to distress, strain, and unhealthy outcomes.
When you are stressed out you have to do something about it. Having confidence defeats stress and so does a positive mindset. Activities such as a vacation, exercising, going for walks, etc., often help in reducing the stress levels. The inability to handle stress often leads to unhappiness, worry, moodiness, anger or possibly poorer health.
It is the everyday stress that is a problem and it must be solved and alleviated as best as possible.
Does stress affect my thinking?
It has been a tough week and you have not accomplished very much. How are you ever going to get through this week? You’re never going to get everything done!! This kind of negativity, while producing distress, will pull you down into a black hole.
One way to address this issue is to dispute your negative thinking. Start with figuring out what the initial negative thoughts and feelings were.
What are the facts: are you lazy? Do you know how to do the tasks assigned?
When you address the facts you can create more positive thinking for yourself and you may notice being more energized and hopeful. It seems plausible that some days are more productive than others.
When you dispute your negative thinking you probably will be more hopeful in your outlook.
Does worry affect my stress?
When something bad happens, do you go over it again and again? This is often referred to as thinking rumination. This is where you see everything through a negative lens. Ruminating is another way to experience distress. Ruminating hardly leaves you in a position to dispute negative thinking. You need to think more clearly, but before you do that you need to put the brakes on your negative thinking.
The first step is expending your awareness. You need to recognize that your endless mulling over it is getting you nowhere. Only then can you choose to do something differently. Create a healthy form of distraction – do something you enjoy.
Does stress affect me physically?
Yes – by the stress hormone – Cortisol. The release of cortisol, a flight or fight chemical, diverts blood towards your limbs and away from the small intestines impacting the digestive system. Other physical conditions that may change due to stress may include cardiovascular changes, muscle tension, insulin changes and focused attention resulting in poorer concentration.
It has been shown that good dietary behaviors contribute to an individual’s overall health, making the individual less vulnerable to distress. It has also been demonstrated that physical activity is a powerful coping strategy, as well as a preventive measure for ill effects of stress, especially when combined with mental relaxing activities, such as yoga, meditation. These activities have shown to create positive outcomes in managing the stress response.
Does stress impact me psychologically?
Psychological distress has been shown to be closely related to behavioral distress. The leading areas of psychological distress are often observed in the forms of anxiety, burnout and depression.
Anxiety is sometimes used to describe the stress reaction and at other times to describe a general state of apprehension or uneasiness and worry. Burnout can create stress when there is a depletion of emotional resources along with a negative attitude and a reduced sense of competence.
A more common psychological condition impacting individual stress levels is depression. The inability to fall asleep affects about 25% of adults in our country. Another form of distress is the ability to function sexually and to fully enjoy sexual relations.
Does stress impact my behavior?
Behavioral distress may be influenced by our lifestyle choices, which may include alcohol abuse, drug abuse, aggression, and tobacco use. Alcohol abuse can lead to medical distress. For instance, cocaine use increases with stress. Individuals under stress may also respond by overeating or by consuming high-fat diets such as those commonly found at fast-food chains.
So what can I do about stress in my life?
You may want to start with exploring relaxation training. The generalized relaxation response is virtually the reverse of the stress response. The relaxation response leads to energy recovery and renewal when practiced with regularity and moderation. Meditation and yoga, when practiced, are forms of relaxation that are used to combat the stress in an individual’s life. Another avenue of addressing stress in one’s life is to talk with friends or write about your feelings. Emotional outlets are essential to maintaining health and well-being. Also consider dietary changes.
How do you deal with stress?
Do you have any tips or tricks on how you deal with stress?