How do you tell the difference between good stress and bad?
The reason for writing another blog on stress is to address the acute problem many young people are experiencing. Having raised two sons, I understand the challenges they’ve been through. But now living a happy life. It was essential as a parent to provide and support my sons as they were growing up.
Personally, having experienced difficult challenges over ten years ago, I needed help which I sought and also understand the triggers of stress, how to manage and overcome the effects successfully. Moreover, I developed mindset tools to sustain my mental health when I face challenges. Now I help my clients to do the same.
Feeling stressed can feel perfectly normal, especially during exam time and when making major decisions. You might notice that sometimes being stressed-out motivates you to focus on your work, yet at other times, you feel incredibly overwhelmed and can’t concentrate on anything. While stress affects everyone in different ways, there are two major types of stress: stress that’s beneficial and motivating — good stress — and stress that causes anxiety and even health problems — bad stress. Here’s more on the benefits and side effects of stress and how to tell if you’re experiencing too much stress.
Benefit of Stress
According to experts, stress is a burst of energy that basically advises you on what to do. In small doses, stress has many advantages. For instance, stress can help you meet daily challenges and motivates you to reach your goals. In fact, stress can help you accomplish tasks more efficiently. It can even boost memory.
Stress is also a vital warning system, producing a fight-or-flight response. When the brain perceives some kind of stress, it starts flooding the body with chemicals like epinephrine, norepinephrine and cortisol. This creates a variety of reactions such as an increase in blood pressure and heart rate. Plus, the senses suddenly have a laser-like focus so you can avoid physically stressful situations — such as jumping away from a moving car — and be safe.
In addition, there are various health benefits with a little bit of stress. Researchers believe that some stress can help to fortify the immune system. For instance, stress can improve how your heart works and protect your body from infection. In one study, individuals who experienced moderate levels of stress before surgery were able to recover faster than individuals who had low or high levels.
Being mentally healthy doesn’t just mean that you don’t have a mental health problem.
If you’re in good mental health, you can:
- make the most of your potential
- cope with life
- play a full part in your family, workplace, community and among friends.
Some people call mental health ‘emotional health’ or ‘well-being’ and it’s just as important as good physical health.
Mental health is everyone’s business. We all have times when we feel down or stressed or frightened. Most of the time those feelings pass. But sometimes they develop into a more serious problem and that could happen to anyone of us.
Everyone is different. You may bounce back from a setback while someone else may feel weighed down by it for a long time.
Your mental health doesn’t always stay the same. It can change as circumstances change and as you move through different stages of your life.
There’s a stigma attached to mental health problems. This means that people feel uncomfortable about them and don’t talk about them much. Many people don’t even feel comfortable talking about their feelings. But it’s healthy to know and say how you’re feeling.
Side Effects of Stress
Stress is key for survival, but too much stress can be detrimental. Emotional stress that stays around for weeks or months can weaken the immune system and cause high blood pressure, fatigue, depression, anxiety and even heart disease. In particular, too much epinephrine can be harmful to your heart. It can change the arteries and how their cells are able to regenerate.
Signals of Too Much Stress
It may be tough to tell when you’re experiencing good or bad stress, but there are important ways that your body lets you know that you’re struggling with too much stress. Watch out for the following warning signs:
• Inability to concentrate or complete tasks
• Get sick more often with colds
• Body aches
• Other illnesses like autoimmune diseases flare-up
• Trouble falling sleeping or staying awake
• Changes in appetite
• More angry or anxious than usual
What You Can Do
Stress is an inevitable part of life, but you can improve the way you respond to stress and avoid or change some of the situations that create negative stress. Check out my other article to help you deal with stress effectively.
Helpful tips on how to manage everyday stress.
There is a wide range of triggers to stress. It is crucial to find out what are those triggers. For example, students in school, colleges and university can experience high-stress levels related to exams, money, relationships with their peers and their future goals in life.
Sometimes stress reaches an unhealthy level that can prevent you from functioning well and meeting your goals. That’s because stress can affect your mood and ability to think clearly. It can also weaken your immune system and make you more susceptible to getting sick.
Chronic stress can lead to — or worsen — serious health problems, including high blood pressure, autoimmune illnesses, digestive issues, depression and anxiety. So, it’s important to manage stress, prevent negative stress levels and speak up if you are feeling overwhelmed. Here are some tips for managing stress.
• Watch out for signs of stress overload. Symptoms of too much stress can be physical, emotional, mental and behavioural. While everyone is different, some common signs are memory problems, trouble concentrating, racing thoughts, irritability, anger, sadness, headaches, frequent colds and changes in sleep or appetite.
• Know your stress triggers. Stress and its triggers are different for everyone. Certain people, places or situations might produce high levels of stress for you. Think about what causes you stress, and brainstorm solutions. If public speaking or presentations make you stressed, start researching early and practice several times. If there are friends or social situations that cause extreme stress, you may want to avoid them when you are already feeling tense or overwhelmed.
• Exercise. All forms of exercise reduce stress hormones, flood the body with feel-good endorphins, improve mood, boost energy and provide a healthy distraction from your dilemmas. Plus, exercise may make you less susceptible to stress in the long run. Find physical activities that you enjoy and try to devote about 30 minutes to them each day.
• Relax. While it’s impossible to eliminate all negative stress from your life, you can control the way you react to stress. Your body’s natural fight-or-flight response can take its toll. When you’re faced with a stressful situation that your mind perceives as a threat, it sends various chemicals, like adrenaline and cortisol, throughout your body. As a result, heart rate and breathing speeds up and your digestion slow down. This tires out the body.
Relaxation techniques are a huge help in calming you down, boosting mood and fighting illness. Try a variety of techniques — like yoga, breathing exercises, meditation and visualization — to see what works for you, and schedule a relaxation break every day.
• Manage your time well. Time can seem like a luxury in college, but there are various ways to manage it effectively. First, focus on one task at a time. Multitasking rarely works. Jot down everything you need to do in a calendar or a task management app/program, prioritize your list and break projects into single steps or actions.
• Be realistic. Pulling yourself in different directions will only stress you out, so try not to over-commit yourself or do extracurricular activities when you’re super busy with school.
• Curb your caffeine. Caffeine might help you study in the short term, but it interrupts sleep and makes you more anxious, tense and jittery. This obviously ups your stress level. Try and drink no more than one caffeinated beverage a day.
• Don’t self-medicate. Some students drink, take drugs, smoke and use other unhealthy behaviours to cope with stress. However, these behaviours can exacerbate stress by negatively affecting your mood and health.
• Reach out. If you’re stressed out, talk to your friends and family. If you feel like you can’t handle the stress on your own, schedule an appointment with a doctor, mindset coach or a counsellor.
You can begin your journey by talking to someone who can help you