Stress is the word
It is amazing to hear the word stress, stressed or stressful, practically every day in our conversations. Sometimes several times a day depending on whom you are talking to.
There is nothing wrong with the word stress per se. Stress hormones such as adrenaline, norepinephrine, and cortisol trigger automatically inside our brains and create a string of feelings and affect emotions and behaviours.
Stress is the way your body reacts to any threat or demand being made on it. When you experience a threat or must deal with something urgent, your brain prepares your body by releasing stress hormones such as adrenaline, norepinephrine, and cortisol. This is what is known as the ‘fight or flight’ or stress response.
The 5 reasons I am writing about stress are:
- I easily succumbed to external pressures that made me very stressful.
- I ensured everyone knew about it.
- It was part of my vocabulary and would join anyone in their stressful chorus. (not anymore. In fact, it has been 7 years since I haven’t used the word ‘stress’).
- I indulged in self-pitying and found it a reason to slip into addictive behaviours to relieve stress.
- Last and crucially, it affected my physical and mental health and had a devastating impact on my family life.
This blog might not eliminate your stressful life, but I believe it will help you to understand managing stressful situations effectively without experiencing the detrimental effects of extreme stress which I suffered.
Media Exposure on Stress
Literally, thousands of articles, on the internet can be found about stress. It is documented in medical reports, blogs, videos, podcasts, TV and media news, all trying to help us better understand the causes of stress. There are also countless ways to relieve manage and cope with stress.
The keynote speaker at the stress conference was Gail Kinman, professor of occupational health psychology at the University of Bedfordshire.
Kinman opened with a caveat that went back in some ways to Selye’s struggle to find a name for his adaptative illness syndrome. ‘Put 100 experts in a room,” she said, “and you will come up with 100 different definitions of stress.’
The one she used, in relation to the workplace, was that approved by the Health and Safety Executive: ‘The process that arises where work demands of various types and combinations exceed the person’s capacity and capability to cope.’
Stress was an imbalance between environmental demands and personal resources; it was taken as read that this was a dangerous thing.
Anxieties about job insecurity led to denial. Two-thirds of British employees agreed that people in their organisation would be unlikely or very unlikely to reveal that they were experiencing stress-related illness. This appeared to go hand in hand with evidence that among people in managerial roles a growing number – more than three-quarters – considered creating a work-life balance as the employee’s responsibility, not theirs.Many of those who reported being stressed cited technological changes – email following them home in the evenings and at weekends – as a prime factor.
Kinman had worked closely in longitudinal studies of two distinct groups – university academics and prison officers. Especially amongst prison officers, the figures were more disturbing. Falling staff levels, changing shift patterns, and rising levels of violence meant that their stress levels were measurable both in impaired problem solving and reduced creativity and also in the very high incidence of relationship breakdown, alcohol abuse and the symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder.
Personal experiences, anything you see, hear, or do with a negative mindset can create a stress hormone that affects mental health. Stress hormones are intended to protect us from dangers. e.g. fight or flight situations.
I would also add freeze! A state of shock.
All stress in not bad - The effects of stress can also be good.
We all experience stress in our lives and many of us try to reduce the effects of stress because we think it is bad for us. However, some stress can be beneficial. It can motivate us to get stuff done and it also has some health benefits. It can boost our motivation and spur us on to get things done.
Stress hormones help us to be more alert, focused, and energetic. So some stress is, in fact, essential to us. Why would we get off the sofa to study for an exam or complete a work report if it weren’t for the effects of stress?
The secret is to make sure we have a balance of stress, enough to motivate us, but not so much we become overwhelmed, anxious and begin to experience detrimental health conditions.
It is true, that sometimes a challenging situation can trigger hormones to react to a situation, but the level of stress we allow it to cause may be inappropriate for the source of our stress.
For example, a burst of adrenaline does very little to help you to respond to an urgent email correctly especially from your boss who is rather demanding.
Neither can you drive to a hospital in your car, if your partner is about to have a baby, without endangering your life, and maybe breaking some traffic laws.
Ensuring a balanced approach is key.
The good side of stress
You must have heard the phrase, all in moderation, especially when you are trying to diet, drink etc. Actually, moderation means different to different people. By applying a balanced approach, moderate levels of stress can be beneficial.
Research shows that stress:
Improves cognitive function
Studies has shown that a moderate level of stress can boost your brainpower. This is because it strengthens the connections between neurons in the brain. These brain changes can result in improved memory and a boost in your attention span, helping you to be more productive.
The stress response is designed to protect you from threats, even the threats posed by bacteria and microorganisms. This means stress can also help you fight off infections. Experiencing a moderate level of stress stimulate the release of a chemical called interleukins and this gives the immune system a boost. So moderate stress could help you fight off a cold!
Good for your heart
Studies have shown that a moderate amount of stress can be good for your heart. In one study, researchers followed patients experiencing high, moderate and low levels of stress before having surgery, something that can put a lot of strain on the heart. They found that those with moderate levels of stress recovered faster than those with high or low levels.
Good for your mental health
Moderate levels of stress can strengthen our mental health. Minor stresses can be like a practice run, helping us deal more effectively when major stressful events occur in our lives.
Can promote child development
A lot of women worry that if they experience stress when pregnant, this might harm their babies. While chronic stress or trauma may have some negative effects, the good news is that normal everyday stress does no harm and can really be beneficial. Read more study
It is all about getting the balance right.
Concluding about stress
So, stress isn’t all bad and the moderate effects of stress can be very beneficial. The secret is to try to keep stress levels from becoming too high. Easier said than done sometimes, I know.
Often mild level of stress can escalate. I would highly recommend, that you talk with someone who would be interested in helping you. I work with people who find themselves in a stressful situation through work, family relationships and low self-esteem and lack of confidence.
So before your stress level escalates you can talk with me in confidence. Book a Discovery Session here.
A final word of caution
The following symptoms could suggest that your stress levels should be reduced:
- Chronic fatigue
- Inability to concentrate or complete tasks
- Frequent illnesses
- Autoimmune diseases
- Aches and pains
- Difficulty sleeping or increased desire for sleep
- Over or undereating
If you have been experiencing persistence effects of stress and it is causing you distress, it is best to seek medical advice from your doctor.