Did you know that stress can actually be beneficial? Just like good and bad cholesterol; there is a difference between “good stress” and “bad stress.” If we define stress as anything that alters our balance and stability for good or for bad, then good stress, in its many forms, is vital for a healthy life.
Without some stress in our lives — the ‘good stress’ variety — we’d feel rudderless and unhappy. For example, if we decide to train for a 5K run, that’s good stress. Or if you are preparing for a big presentation, the ‘stress’ helps you focus and rise to the challenge to perform well.
Good stress, or what psychologists refer to as eustress, is the beneficial type of stress. Our pulse quickens, our hormones change, but we feel no threat or fear. We feel this type of stress when we ride a roller coaster, gun for a promotion, or go on a first date. It keeps us feeling alive and excited about life.
A type of stress that results from specific events or situations that are unpredictable, novel, threatening is called acute stress. Acute stress triggers the body’s stress response as well, but the triggers aren’t always happy and exciting. For example, almost getting into a car accident or giving a speech in front of people. But generally, once the situation is over or dealt with, our bodies and emotions usually return to a relaxed state with no long-term physical or mental consequences. You can feel the tension leave your body, like a long sigh.
Chronic stress is the most damaging. This type of stress comes is unrelenting, takes a heavy toll and feels inescapable. A stressful job or an unhappy home life can bring on chronic stress. This is what we normally think of as serious stress. Because our bodies aren’t designed for chronic stress, serious health effects, both physical and emotional, will occur over time. It is vital to find stress busters that work for you. They may include exercise, diet, therapy and lifestyle changes. Check out humanstress.ca or drweil.com or mayoclinic.com for some ideas. Without some sort of pressure-relieving strategies, our bodies and minds will stay on a path of deterioration.
Is it possible to good stresses for your life? Although you can overdo anything, it’s important to choose activities that make you feel good, happy, and excited about life. On the flip side, try to cut out as many activities as you can that drain you or lead to chronic stress. One good way to figure out if an activity is worth your time is to ask yourself, “How does this activity make me feel? Am I excited, can’t wait to do it? Is it a “want to” activity, or a “have to” activity? Be sure your “want to” activities are all things you really do want to do, and your “have to” activities are all absolutely necessary.
Like anything else, balance is key to handling stress. Identify the causes of chronic stress and develop a plan to neutralize them if possible. Changing your perception of stress where you can. Add some positive activities into the mix to promote beneficial stress to create a balance for yourself.
©2017 Alpha Center for Divorce Mediation