Bad Stress vs. Good Stress, Not All Stress Is Created Equal!May 14, 2021
What Determines Bad vs. Good Stress?
Our unique awareness and ability to assess and then react or respond to our environment and external stimuli is what makes up a significant part of our personalities. How we manage stress or react to ‘stressors’ is a lot about ‘who we are' as individuals.
What some people find majorly overwhelming and stressful, others see as a fun challenge.
For example, planning a home renovation might be a living nightmare for some and a lifelong dream for others. It doesn’t mean the renovation won’t come with ‘stressors’; it just means that each of us will have distinct stress reactions and handle those stressors differently.
Tip: Check your mindset – are you in the habit of telling yourself you are stressed?
As Selye, the pioneer of stress psychology eloquently put it,
"Stress is not what happens to you, but how you react to it."
So, let’s start by pulling apart what ‘stressors’ or possible causes of our stress reactions are.
First, there are 3 main ways these stressors show up, and understanding their significance in terms of your health and wellbeing or capacity to cope, will go a long way towards helping you overcome any overwhelm and find calm in your life!
These are sudden, short-lived, high immediate impact events that have the potential to trigger severe physical responses such as emotional breakdown or even heart attacks!
Occur when you face a high-pressure or emotionally charged situation on a semi-regular basis.
These are the more insidious long-term and persistent stressors that leave your body weary, and mentally fatigued. Being in a constant state of mental exhaustion, or on alert can take its toll on your overall physical and mental health over time.
Stressors fall into 5 main areas: -
Psychological – stem from within your mind, they may relate to your relationships, whether they are personal or work-related; they may be current concerns or memories of past events that keep you in a holding pattern. They may be deadlines or constraints that threaten or challenge you, or create fear, real or imagined!
Biological – these are physical, and health related such as injury, pain, and illness.
Environmental – These stressors sit ‘outside’ of you; it might be the weather, noise, light or dark, the development of or presence of phobias, or in context of personal space.
Internal – Your own thoughts and emotions. Often pressures that you place on yourself to act or perform in a certain way. Perfectionism is a classic Internal stressor.
Psychosocial – the way all these stressors interrelate in an effort to keep our bodies calm or in a state of ‘homeostasis’ i.e., the tendency of the body to strive toward equilibrium.
(If you’re keen to learn more about stressors and the subtleties of how they might affect you there’s a great medically reviewed article here by Mary Elizabeth Dean)
TIP: Now you can see what ‘stressors’ fall into different categories, and checked whether you’re in the habit of ‘being stressed’ - check again, what stress reactions can you control or leave behind?
What Stresses You Out vs What Stresses You Up
Identifying the source of your negative stress by considering the various ‘stressors’ in your life is the first step in working out how to prepare, cope or cut them out and get more calm in your life!
Let’s start though with Eustress, the Positive type of stress, or rather the way in which we perceive the different types of stressors that result in us feeling Uplifted. Eustress is how we respond to the stressors listed above, and how it leaves us feeling excited by the challenge or opportunity presented, e.g., a first date, a promotion, or travelling to a new destination. It still creates a response to our nervous system but is felt as thrilling or uplifting and may even be adrenaline or dopamine spiking, it’s the type of response or ‘positive stress’ that contributes to you feeling energised or ‘alive’, and that pushes and motivates us to do or strive for more in our lives.
The lesson here is that if you decide to interpret whatever the stressor is as positive, your biological and physiological response will match it and the potential ‘negative stress’ on your body will be minimised.
The brain always believes what you tell it, so Good Stress is also about self-efficacy and the positive thinking Meraki Mindset is so entwined with!
Positive Thinking + Positive Doing = Positive Being!
Distress on the other hand is Bad stress, the persistent type of stress that causes a sense of chaos in our lives and has the potential to affect both our physical and mental health.
This is the type of stress that is often not resolved or coped with, it is created when the perception of the situation results in myriad different symptoms or reactions, such as feelings of worry, anxiety, helplessness, impatience, restlessness, rejection, confusion, loss of control or overwhelm.
It contributes to responses like loss of concentration, irrational fears, lost sense of humour, irritability, increased reliance on emotional eating or drug or alcohol dependence and many more negative outcomes for you.
It can be the type of stress that creeps into our life, without a big announcement, and stays quiet until one day it manifests in some sort of emotional breakdown, blow-out, or illness, and demands to be acknowledged with a fanfare!
There’s no getting away from the various stressors in our everyday lives, however, if your particular stressors are not properly identified, don’t go away or you can’t learn how to manage them, the effects on your long-term health and mental wellbeing can be serious.
So what CAN you do to lessen the negative effects of what is then, the inevitable stressors and stress and find more calm?
The first thing to do is stop telling yourself you’re stressed
There are dozens if not hundreds of ‘self-help’ books, to help you deal with the stressors on your own. These can be a helpful starting point, but you may still need additional support to assess your thought patterns and emotions or behaviours.
Meraki Mindset is a great proponent of self-care, not the “go and get your hair done’ or ‘have a beer with a mate’ type of self-care (although that can most definitely help at times!) We mean authentically and mindfully taking care of you, yes all the stuff you read about! It means being mindful of your mindset, aware of your self-talk, it means positive healthy habits, healthy eating, getting enough sleep, including movement in your daily routine and not relying on drugs and alcohol to soothe your stress. It helps to seek out positive, supportive like-minded friends and make an effort to do something you enjoy or getting out in your community - being sociable.
It’s also important for you to find time, even a few minutes a day to relax and appreciate yourself!
Just like our friend the Smile, an Attitude of Gratitude goes a long way towards keeping stress in perspective!
A smile is one of the most beautiful weapons in a stressful situation. It tells your brain that you are happy. It makes other people happy, and smiles boost your self-confidence. So keep smiling 🙂.
If all of that doesn’t work for you and your work or personal life is taking a hit, perhaps you’d benefit from having someone in your court to hold space for you, hold you accountable and support you whilst you continue to work towards more calm in your life?
Would you value having evidence-based Habit Change and Meraki Mindset programs compiled around your individual needs? Here’s what one of our happy clients had to say at the end of last year: -
“Thank you Julie I honestly didn't expect to feel so different so quick. Our first session was quite a breakthrough in itself and now just a few weeks later, I'm loving work again and I know how to break things down into baby steps and little habits, I keep thinking of more things to change! I'm going to miss you!” Amy W. Currumbin
Why not book in a call with Julie now to see how having a personal life strategist could take you from Chaos to Calm, move your mindset and kick the stress in your life?
After all, we are all unique and our stressors and stress responses are as individual as we are; don’t you deserve special consideration?
It’s as easy as clicking HERE to find 25 minutes for a chat!
Meraki: (n) the soul, creativity, or love put into something; the essence of yourself that is put into whatever you do.
Mindset: (n) outlook towards life, a person’s way of thinking and their opinions, a mental attitude.