STRESS: The good, the bad, the…
STRESS. We all experience it. Usually understood as the degree to which you feel overwhelmed or unable to cope with unmanageable pressures. Stress can also be defined as any type of change or stimulus that causes a response. Homeostasis is the body’s preferred state of being. Anything that attempts to alter it causes a stress response. Stress isn’t generic either; there are several kinds.
Eustress, the good stuff, is fun and exciting. It’s the positive type of stress that keeps you energized and amped. It’s usually associated with adrenaline; pulse quickens, sweaty palms, breathing picks up but there is no threat or fear, in fact, it’s often joyful. We feel this type of stress when we ride a roller coaster, compete in sports, or go on a first date. Eustress keeps us feeling alive and excited about life.
On the flip side is bad stress. This can be acute (short duration), episodic (repeatedly), or chronic (constant, long-term). Depending on severity it adversely affects us in many ways: Psychologically, Emotionally, Physically, and even Behaviorally. Stress can result in difficulty concentrating, worrying, anxiety, trouble remembering, tight muscles, sleepless nights, loss of appetite, crankiness, and various illnesses.
Stress can be seen in MRI scans affecting specific neuropathways of our brains. The more the neuropathways fire the stronger and deeper they become. This is why we often respond to stress by eating, drinking, watching Netflix, etc, because we choose to do things that feel comforting vs what would be good for us. Our habits and auto programming kick in, and generally not in ways that are good for us.
Neuro-Science studies show if you fire both hemispheres of your brain when you notice stress or anxiety coming on the feelings of stress and anxiety can be neutralized. That is why Martial Arts is one of the best forms of stress reduction and a great anxiety reducer. It involves both hemispheres of the brain. Hand eye moment is the quickest way to stimulate your brain.
TRICK: when you feel stressed or anxious take an object and pass it from hand to hand while literally saying “I’m passing X to my right hand, I’m passing X to my left hand.” Keep going until the feelings subside. Sounds corny but it works!
Everyone experiences stress to some degree. What determines if it is good or bad is how we respond to stress making a huge difference in our overall well-being. As bad a stress seems and feels sometimes, it’s a very necessary evil for our development. Without stress there is no change; positive or negative.
So how do we set ourselves up for more positive stress vice the negative?
One way is to choose and do activities that bring you joy and happiness. Anything you get excited for and thoroughly enjoy doing. This doesn’t need to be anything physical like exercise. For some it’s reading a book, others mowing the lawn, and some video gaming. The activity is irrelevant to the result, eustress.
A second approach is goal setting. I know, I know. Here we go again with the goal setting. In this respect, let’s set goals to do those things we enjoy on a regular basis. Life gets busy and so do our schedules. What usually gets pushed aside first are those things we view as leisure activities without hesitating to understand how important they are to our mental health. Make it as much of a priority and anything else or it likely won’t happen.
Saying NO. This is a tough one many people struggle with, me included. We say yes to someone because we don’t want to be confrontational or disappoint. We opt into doing something out of feeling obligated, adding more unwanted stress to our already full plates. Saying yes when we don’t want to is really saying NO to something we likely need to do. Saying NO is powerful. You take control of your circumstance and the direction you want to go, not where someone else wants you to go. Saying NO allows you to say yes to those things that create good, healthy stress in your life.
I’ve been reading a book called “Not Nice” by psychologist and confidence expert, Dr. Aziz Gazipura. I know some of my students and friends will say I have no problem not being nice. Dr. Gazipura takes an incisive look at the concept of nice. If you find it hard to be assertive, directly ask for what you want, or say “no” to others, then you just might be suffering from too much “niceness.” Throughout the read Dr. Aziz explores the long-term detriment of being overly amenable to things that cause negative stress in our life and ultimately prevents from being our true self and experience happiness.
Stress can be a good thing if we set ourselves up for for the right kind. Identify those things you enjoy and make them a priority in your life. Embrace NO. Stand up for your wants and needs; stop putting others’ before you. Now, this doesn’t mean turn into a total jack wagon, ignore the needs of others, no longer caring for people, or cease showing any compassion or empathy for people. A lot of our negative stress is caused by how we interact with other people and to what degree we allow their influence.
There is only one person on the planet that can always take care of you…and that’s YOU! Only you can determine what kind of stress is in your life.