What You Need To Know About Stress: The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly
Rev. Dr. Kitty Boitnott, NBCT, RScP
Heart-Centered Career Transition and Job Search Coach | Certified Stress Management Coach
Stress is a problem, right? It’s bad for you because it creates all sorts of negative feelings and health problems. Stress couldn’t possibly be good for you, could it?
The answer is, it depends. There are categories of stress that are good for you. The negative vs. positive effects of stress varies greatly depending on its frequency, severity, and the symptoms it causes.
Intrigued? Read on to learn more.
Eustress is the “Good” Kind of Stress
This may be a new term to you, but eustress refers to "good" stress. It is the kind of stress that enhances your health and benefits your performance. This is the kind of stress you feel when you see your child about to topple down a flight of stairs. It kicks your body systems into gear so that you can act quickly and catch your child.
Other ways that eustress manifests in your life are in your creative and athletic efforts. An artist who is driven by eustress becomes inspired and full of energy. An athlete gains excited energy just before a competition, and his or her body performs to its highest potential. Eustress is brief, intense, and does not wear the body out.
The prefix "hyper" denotes too much of something. It is about excess. Consider the conditions, hyperactivity and hyperthyroidism, etc. Hyperstress is no exception. It refers to relentless, uninterrupted stress that forces you to perform optimally and continually without relief.
It's like being asked to give your all every minute of every day, and sometimes through the night as well. Hyperstress is not healthy and is one of the significant causes of burn-out.
Hyperstressed people often feel tense, irritable, and edgy. You may find that your emotions are always just below the surface. You may be easily provoked. Your resilience has been worn thin.
Hypostress is Also a “Bad” Kind of Stress
The opposite of the "hyper" prefix, "hypo" denotes a lack. Think of hypoglycemia (low blood sugar). If you are hypostressed, you feel bored and do not have much motivation. This does not mean you're not doing anything. It just says you aren't doing anything that interests or motivates you. For example, if you have a job that involves repetitive, mechanical action, such as on an assembly line, you may experience hypostress. Hypostress can make you feel restless, discontent, perhaps even apathetic.
Distress is the Worst Kind of Bad Stress
Distress is caused by a traumatic event or events. Consider how people feel as the result of some sort of adverse environmental factors like the fires in California or the water crisis in Flint, Michigan. The term, “distress” is sometimes used synonymously with anxiety. Distress itself is divided into three types: acute, episodic, and chronic.
*Acute distress results from a perceived threat. It may be real, such as being physically attacked, or it may be purely psychological. Either way, the result is distress. It's your response to being threatened. Acute distress can also be a reaction to a change or upheaval in your life. It is almost always temporary. But that makes it no less real when you are caught up in an event that is creating major upheaval and anxiety in your life.
*Episodic distress results from a series of negative events that take place relatively quickly and build on one another during a difficult period of one’s life. For example, perhaps you find yourself going through a divorce. That would be bad enough, but then, as a result of the divorce, you find yourself in financial trouble. That’s even worse. And then, let’s say, because of the financial trouble, you suddenly find yourself in danger of losing your home or car. These are all technically isolated events, yet they are connected and occur in a short span of time. The wear and tear on your ability to cope lead to a feeling of general overwhelm and perhaps even despair. But chances are you will eventually recover and find happiness again.
*Chronic distress is unrelenting and unending. Pain from an illness or the stress of a bad diagnosis may be the cause. Things aren’t likely to get better which is why it is referred to as “chronic.” Not having the hope of some sort of relief makes your outlook darker.
Chronic stress can result in more illness and even depression.
Chronic distress can result if you are yelled at by your boss every day, for example. Or maybe the source is a problematic marriage. Victims of domestic abuse certainly experience chronic stress. So do cancer patients who are in advanced stages of their disease or those with conditions such as MS or ALS and other ailments with no cure to date.
Where acute distress is like a single hammer blow, episodic stress is like a series of blows in succession. Chronic distress is like being hit and run over by a bulldozer.
Healthy Stress vs. Unhealthy Stress
The phrase "healthy stress" may sound like an oxymoron, but it is a reality. The fact is that stress is inescapable in life. The only people who no longer feel stress are those who have already passed on to another dimension. Everyone feels some stress at different points throughout their lives. Our bodies are likewise equipped to handle certain types and amounts of stress. We can even enjoy it when it helps us perform or compete in an endeavor that is important to us.
So what is the difference between healthy and unhealthy stress? What makes stress "healthy" as opposed to "unhealthy?" Here are some things to think about regarding stress and its role in your health.
Healthy Stress Helps When You Need a Boost
Without stress, not very much would get done in your life. After all, stress is what drives you to teach your kids proper behavior. Stress drives you to want to earn money and to pay your bills. Stress keeps you on your toes when playing a game or when catching your tumbling toddler. A certain amount of stress about the danger of traffic accidents makes you drive safely.
Stress Helps to Improve Reaction Time
Do you feel a little stressed when someone cuts you off in traffic? That stress response you feel allows you to respond quickly and hit the brakes. Stress can motivate you into quick, sometimes life-saving action. In the case of an emergency, one of your stress hormones - adrenaline - kicks in. Adrenaline is nature’s way of prompting you to act quickly and sometimes with remarkable strength.
Stress is Connected to Endorphins
Endorphins are the "feel good" neurotransmitters in your brain. When the body is stressed or in pain, its natural pain relievers are released in the form of endorphins.
Exercise is a healthy way to bring endorphin-releasing stress onto your body. While you should not exercise to the point of unbearable pain, it's okay to "feel the burn" and push yourself a little. Massage therapy and acupuncture can also stimulate the release of endorphins.
Other Health Benefits of Stress
Experts are finding anti-tumor activity in people who undergo healthy stress. This finding indicates that healthy stress stimulates the immune system.
What You Need to Know about Unhealthy Stress
Damage is Done When Stress is Constant
The unhealthy type of stress is constant and unrelenting. You do not return to a normal energy level after it has passed. Unhealthy stress can take the form of constant worry, depression, and exhaustion. It can cause weight gain as well due to the release of cortisol, the "stress hormone."
Unhealthy Depresses Your Immunity
Continual stress weakens the immune system. That can leave you more susceptible to everyday illnesses like colds. It also contributes to more serious problems such as cancer and diabetes.
Learn Not to Sweat the Small Stuff
People who are chronically stressed usually worry about common, everyday things over which they have no control. These are the kinds of things that are not going to go away, such as paying bills, keeping the house clean, and so forth. Once one set of worries is tackled, another set comes along. Accepting these annoyances as part of life can go a long way in helping you cope with unhealthy stress.
You Can Manage Your Stress But You Can't Eliminate It
As I mentioned earlier, the only people who don't have to deal with stress are those who have already passed on ahead of us. The rest of us are left to learn to cope in the best, healthiest ways we can with the stress of modern living.
Unfortunately, we are approaching the season where stress gets ratcheted up even more. The holidays are wonderful for all the reasons that we enjoy them, but they do bring with them extra stress, don't they? There's baking to be done and shopping lists to contend with. Sometimes travel arrangements need to be made, and we all know that travel is contingent on all sorts of unforeseen elements.
It is the "hap, hap, happiest time of the year," and it is the most stressful for some.
If you would like to learn more about how to deal with stress during the holidays, stay tuned for a free presentation I will be offering on how to manage your stress during the holidays. I hope you will plan to sign up.
Until next time.
Speaking of free presentations, I am offering a workshop this week on the 3 Secrets of EVERY Successful Job Search or Career Change REVEALED.
I offered one session last night, but there are two more opportunities for you in case you are interested. The next one will be Friday, November 23rd at 11:00 AM EST and the one after that will be Saturday, November 24th also at 11 AM EST.
I will be covering the information that I am also offering in my eBook of the same title.
If you want the eBook, it is available for only $10 for a brief time. Click on the buy button below to get your copy.
And sign up for the presentation on Friday or Saturday. I would love to see you there. Click here to register: https://events.genndi.com/register/169105139238447032/620f2b9d22.