I know what you’re thinking. How in the world can stress be good for my health?!?
Most of the time when we think of being stressed, our minds conjure up events (real or imagined) where we were upset, angry, frustrated, emotionally drained, sad, hopeless…and more. Basically, we were not in a good place, and who wants that?
Well, there are actually two types of stress:
- Distress, which refers to negative stress, such as a divorce or a breakup
- Eustress, which refers to positive stress , like starting a new job. That’s our definition of good stress.
April is National Stress Awareness Month, so let’s talk about the types of stress that we encounter in our lives, examples of healthy stress, and how we can effectively deal with both.
Stress occurs when someone feels an imbalance between a challenge and the resources they have to deal with itKathleen Gunthert, a professor of psychology at American University
Can Stress be Good for You? Eustress
When we’re in the midst of a stressful situation we’re probably not going to consciously think, “this is great, bring it on!”. But even so, a moderate amount of normal stressors in our lives can help us in these surprising ways:
First, moderate stress strengthens the connection between neurons in your brain, helping you become more productive. This may explain why many people work better when under stress.
Second, low doses of the stress hormone helps protect from infections. Moderate stress stimulates the production of a chemical called interleukins and gives the immune system a quick boost to protect against illnesses.
And third, dealing with stress can actually make you tougher, stronger, more resilient as you experience those times in your life.
Think back to a difficult situation in your life and how you handled it. If you had a similar experience later on, you probably were able to deal with it a bit differently, perhaps felt more in control of the situation because it was not entirely new to you.
A 2012 study concluded that participants who believed their stress was negatively impacting their health had associated poor health, psychological concerns, and even risk of premature death.
Those participants who believed their stress was positive did not show these same risks, despite their level of stress. Interesting, isn’t it?
Ever thought about making stress your friend? Listen to this podcast:
How to Deal with Distress? De-Stress!
While it is comforting to an extent to know that the ‘normal’ stresses of life can be good for us, we also know that the other ‘distresses’ are inevitable. So much so that we devote an entire month to stress awareness.
So what can we do to cope, de-stress and avoid the health issues like mood, sleep and appetite problems, and worse yet, heart disease?
Here are five suggestions, and none are going to be a surprise to you, I’m sure.
But let’s look at them with a spirit of reflection instead of glossing over them with a “yep, already know that one”, and take a moment or two, to consider what we can do now…today…to incorporate these positive actions into our life:
TAKE THE EDGE OFF:
Simple things like listening to music, spending a little time with your favorite hobby, relaxing in a warm bath, enjoying a cup of coffee and a good read…all of these actions help us to diffuse and de-stress.
This is what I do to lower my stress almost every day. The act of exercising releases endorphins, mood-boosting chemicals, and that is just one benefit of physical activity. Regular exercise also helps to keep our heart healthy, can lower blood pressure and help to lose weight.
TURN OFF THE ELECTRONICS:
Give yourself the gift of an electronic break for 10 to 15 minutes per day, and include the cell phones, too. It is really okay to leave them off (or out of sight) for a short time…or maybe longer. It will all be there waiting for you. 🙂
Spending a few minutes of quiet time can do a world of good for letting go of the stresses of daily life. For me it is prayer. For you it could be yoga, meditation, deep breathing or other inward-focused thought. You will feel the difference in your entire body as you release the stress.
Smiling and laughter can actually lower levels of stress hormones, reduce inflammation in the arteries and increase the ‘good’ LDL cholesterol. So go ahead…smile, laugh, hold your head high and remain positive. It’s good for your stress, and for your health!
Source: Stress Management, Special Health Report from Harvard Medical School.
Stress is always going to be a part of our life, there is no getting around that.
If we can find the positive in the ‘good stress’ and learn from that, then find healthy ways to release the more difficult stress that life throws our way, we can find the balance to living a healthy and productive life.