Stress. It’s a word we hear a lot these days, especially during "stress awareness month". It’s not surprising that many people feel overwhelmed and overworked, as we live in a world where productivity and success are praised above all else. But what happens when this stress becomes too much to bear? It’s clear that stress can have a negative impact on our lives, both mentally and physically. However, it’s not all doom and gloom. We’ll explore the good, the bad, and the ugly of stress.
Let’s start with the bad. Chronic stress, which is long-term stress, can have a negative impact on our health. It can cause physical symptoms like headaches, muscle tension, and high blood pressure. Chronic stress can also lead to mental health problems like anxiety and depression. However, it’s not just the stress itself that causes harm, but also the accompanying lifestyle changes that often come with it. Things like smoking, overeating, and drinking too much alcohol can all have negative consequences for our health.
Now, let’s move on to the good. Believe it or not, stress can actually have some positive effects. Short-term stress, like a deadline or a challenging task, can boost our motivation and raise our alertness, leading to positive outcomes. And experiencing stress and successfully pulling through it can actually build resilience, making us better equipped to handle future stressful situations.
Finally, let’s talk about the ugly. When stress becomes too much to handle, it can lead to burnout, a state of physical, emotional, and mental exhaustion caused by prolonged stress. Burnout can lead to feelings of cynicism, detachment, and a sense of ineffectiveness. It can also have serious consequences for our physical health, including an increased risk of heart disease and stroke.
So, what can we do to manage stress in our lives?
One way is to modify stress-originating behaviours or lifestyle changes. This can include things like getting more exercise, practising meditation or mindfulness, and getting enough sleep. Another way to manage stress is to build strong interpersonal relationships. Research has shown that having just 3-4 deep relationships can be a tremendous protective factor against chronic stress.
Finally, it’s important to take time to consciously experience moments of happiness throughout our day. This can lower cortisol production and boost heart rate variability, leading to a more relaxed state of mind. By taking steps to manage our stress and build resilience, we can turn stress from something that’s just bad and ugly into something that can also be good.
Wishing you a stress-free week!