"The stress-response can be more damaging than the stressor itself, especially when the stress is purely psychological. And if you experience every day as an emergency, you will pay the price." ~Dr. Robert M. Sapolsky (Professor of biology and neurology at Stanford University).
Stress is predicted by scientists to be the downfall of our modern society.
Over 95% of what doctors treat is either caused or made worse by stress (Dr. Mark Hyman).
So stress gets a bad rep.
But friends like to point out ...
Well - I love this topic, so let’s explore.
First, you need to know, there is good stress (eustress) and bad stress (distress).
Good stress, eustress, or healthy stress is the type of stress that you experience which excites you, motivates you, makes you stronger, has your best interest at heart, has positive vibes, is rewarding, and is aligned to your values and goals.
Some examples of healthy stress are:
On the other hand, bad stress, distress, or unhealthy stress is prolonged or chronic pressure and tension with no end in sight (read this for more on what stress does to our body).
It’s discouraging, it tears you down, makes you feel small, it pains and harms you, it brings out rage and resentment, it stops you in your tracks, it makes you feel helpless and despair. It’s got all kinds of negative vibes and definitely does not have your best interest at heart.
Some examples of unhealthy stress are:
So now you know that not all stress is created equal.
But the duration of stress is also just as important.
Father of stress research, Hans Seyles says we (mammals) experience stress in 3 stages: Alarm, Resistance and Exhaustion.
Or in modern day terms, I like call the 3 stages: Oh Crap, Pushing Through and Burnout (if you like this, read more here).
The point Seyle makes is that our bodies aren't built to experience prolonged stress without serious set backs to our health and wellbeing. If we don't pump the brakes, eventually we'll crash and burn. It's not if, but when.
So, in addition to paying attention to good vs. bad stress, keep tabs on short-term vs. long term stress. Generally, it's the long-term stress that gets the stink-eye.
For my Type-A, overly ambitious, adrenaline junkies...
Don't worry. If you genuinely enjoy your "stress" - it's most likely eustress (or healthy stress) that you're experiencing. Just make sure the duration of stress is short-term and your adrenal glands are in tip-top shape to handle your "habit."
Unless you've experienced trauma in the past, most people don't seek out or enjoy distress (but that's another topic for another day).
In any case, my point is healthy stress can be good for your growth and expansion while unhealthy stress suppresses your growth and expansion in life.
Being aware of stress and its harmful effects doesn’t mean you need to hold back on living a full life.
In fact, I’m advocating that living a full life will build your resilience to stress.
Things like, adventure, beauty, nature, movement, stillness, laughter, dance, music, art, travel, connection, learning, growth, productivity, service, self development, nutrition, exploration, play, creativity, communication, friendships, community, love, family, will help you build your resilience and make you stronger to stress.
Go after what excites you, what you’re curious about, what lights you up.
However, if you're like most human, these same things might also scare you a little at times.
Because on the other side of a full life involve things like risks, mistakes, falls, injuries, heartaches, disappointments, fatigue, failure, sickness, stagnation, burnout, guilt, bittersweet nostalgia, broken promises, unfulfilled dreams, regret, despair, anxiety, depression, loneliness, shame and aging.
The more you live and experience connection and joy, the stronger you become at playing with and handling life's curve balls and moments of darkness.
Every time you go after and experience what brings you connection and joy, you refill yourself up like a video game character with life and vitality.
This will help cushion life’s blows.
The bigger the cushion, the more you’re likely to bounce right back and enjoy the game of life!
Here's a challenge for you if you're up for it.
Look at the list of life experiences above from both sides of the coin.
Ask yourself, how much are you experiencing from one side versus the other side?
No judgement. Just notice. Notice each day and each week. Once you see it, there's no going back. There's no convincing you of making a change. You're going to naturally make adjustments that create the life experience that you want. You really have no choice.
The point isn’t to hide from the stress in your life.
The point is to be able to:
Give me a face palm 🤦🏻♀️in the comments section if you think you're currently experiencing too much stress in your life.
Have you heard? If you like this topic, I have a new offering that dives deeper with 20 science-based strategies and tools to master your calm and de-stress your life. It's called Your Life, Calmer (in 7 days). Check it out!