Are you stressed out at work? Or maybe your significant other is making you stressed out? Are you eating your emotions with chocolate and French fries?
If you have too much tension in your shoulders, stress around your neck, and if you have anxiety when you think of certain events, then you’re most likely stressed out.
But wait. Is stress bad for you? Let’s rephrase this… Is ALL stress bad? Well, that all depends. There’s good stress vs bad stress.
You can read a lot of stress articles, and they will mostly tell you how stress can kill you, and why stress is bad.
Today, more than ever before, there is a lot of literature and a ton of products to help you reduce your stress level.
Stress, by itself, is not a bad thing. It is how you deal with stress that can keep you well or make you sick. In this post, we’re looking at stress with fresh new eyes because we believe that some stress is good, to a certain extent.
- 1 Introduction- How Can Stress Be Positive?
- 2 Fight Or Flight – Good Stress Vs Bad Stress
- 3 What Is Bad Stress?
- 4 How Can Stress Be Positive?
- 5 The Science Behind Why Stress Is Good
- 6 How To Change Your Attitude About Stress
- 7 How To Shift Your Focus From Bad Stress To Good Stress Immediately
- 8 Final Thoughts On Good And Bad Stress
Introduction- How Can Stress Be Positive?
We live in the age of stress. But the main question is… Is all stress bad?
Negative emotional feelings are all around us and we carry them with us from the moment we wake up until we go to bed. Some of us even wake up with anxiety and feel very helpless when it comes to changes in our lives.
There is a way to look at stress in a different way. Healthy stress is about accepting negative emotions as being part of living. Not taking that into consideration may make you very edgy.
There are many ways to cope with stress if you’re the most stressed out person you know. You don’t want to be the grumpiest person in the room, do you?
In a recent study on stress conducted for The American Psychological Society, it was reported that in 2017, one additional stress category was added to the “normal” categories of yearly stressors, and that category is “The Future Of Our Nation”.
According to this Harris Poll, the most common sources of stress (as of 2017):
- 63% Future of the nation.
- 62% Money and finances.
- 61% Work and career.
- 57% Current politics.
- 51% Crime and Violence.
Stress helps in ways that may surprise you. It is best to be friends with your stress and to try to lessen it. If you cannot lessen your stress, then it might be very beneficial to learn how to turn it around and have it be a good conduit to changing your life. You don’t want to feel stuck, and continue getting stressed out.
The benefits of stress can be numerous, as long as you recognize stress as a fact of life. Embracing your healthy stress and being creative with your stress (i.e. coloring a book, or taking a walk) may prove to be pensive and therapeutic. In the long run, it will prove to be a lot healthier than eating junk food, or stuffing your face with a few doughnuts.
On a physical aspect, you can also use good home massagers that can alleviate the muscular aspects of stress, but you really want to become friends with your stress level.
You want to accept that there are some advantages of stress. This will translate into you being more capable of dealing with life’s ups and downs.
Fight Or Flight – Good Stress Vs Bad Stress
Danger, danger, danger… You are about to be eaten by a lion! The “fight or flight” response describes extreme reaction to what is perceived as imminent danger.
Can stress be good in this case? Yes. It can. Let’s examine this in a different light.
Let’s put ourselves into a time machine (humor me) and let’s set the dial to 100,000 years ago. Don’t worry; I will not let us be eaten by lions.
We are shielded by protective invisible glass, and nobody can see us. We are parked in a busy forest, and counting how many of our ancestors are out hunting for food. We see some being successful, while others running as fast as they could, getting out of danger, and escaping from lions, tigers, and bears, as well as other predatory animals.
The danger factor, plus the stress level on the face of our ancestors as they run, is the essence of “fight or flight”.
Our ancestors had an internal system that automatically turned on that made them run to escape danger because they had 2 choices: Either fight the beast and have food to survive and thrive, or run to escape death.
We have inherited this system, and although we live in big cities now, with no predatory animals in our buildings, we still perceive danger in similar ways.
So, yes, stress can be bad if we don’t learn how to manage it, but it modern time, it’s not going to kill us.
You may die from complications related to stress (i.e. loading up on junk foods and getting a clogged artery), but stress itself will not kill you.
Today, stress can be beneficial. It could be a way to stop being a victim. It could help you regenerate hopes, dreams, and goals.
What Is Bad Stress?
A bad stress is the type that takes over your life and health.
If you have problems at work or at home, you escape them and drown yourself in alcohol or food. This eventually can lead to many problems and health issues. Instead, why not face what is coming your way and change something in your life?
Bad stress prompts you to surrender completely to your hormones and anger. When someone cuts you off in traffic, your first reaction is to follow them and harass them. At this time, and unknowingly to you, your body switches to stress mode and floods your bloodstream with harmful hormones that can elevate your heart beat and get your blood pressure pumping. Your system demands more oxygen to be cycled to your muscles and tissues.
How Can Stress Be Positive?
Contrast the driving example with this one. Someone is driving very close to you on the highway…
They are not allowing for the 5 car rule to allow for space between cars. Yes. This stresses you out, but you are cognizant of your stress now and you avoid this person by taking another lane and letting them pass. This is a lesson I learned early on from my dad while he was teaching me how to drive.
If this person wants to crash, let them crash elsewhere. This gesture of self-preservation and being aware of the moment is one of many positive aspects of stress. Your awareness and constant search for Zen gets you to change something for the better. This is when stress helps you avoid bad situations.
The Science Behind Why Stress Is Good
In 2001, a University of Wisconsin stress study on close to 30,000 participants concluded that stressed out people who perceive stress as bad were four times more likely to be physically sick. These people were also 5 times more likely to be in a poor mental state than those who thought that stress was a part of life and were able to manage it properly.
How To Change Your Attitude About Stress
There is a lot of literature about managing stress in a mindful way, such as “Mindfulness: An Eight-Week Plan for Finding Peace in a Frantic World” by Mark Williams and Danny Penman.
This book talks about the positive effects of stress and is based on Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT).
It offers easy and practical methods on how to deal with stress. The positive effects of stress can be achieved in as little as 10 or 20 minutes per day.
“Peace can’t be achieved in the outside world unless we have peace on the inside.” (Goldie Hawn)
Another book to consider is written by Chogyam Trungpa and titled “Mindfulness in Action”.
It concentrates on mindfulness as a way to cope with life, reduce stress, and have better concentration.
There are a few factors as to why you are treating stress as the enemy. Let’s take a look at them and examine some interesting facts.
(a) Change Your Behavior
When you feel stressed out, you may automatically reach out for your bottle of wine, closest fast food drive through, or cake in the fridge. You fill the void with foods and destructive drinks because you choose to tune out your emotions and stress.
If so, then you probably view stress as a bad thing. You don’t know how to cope with it. You try to mask it with behaviors that only temporarily help.
It is important to step away from the fridge, or keep driving home. You must become aware of your stress level and find other ways to cope with it, like listen to music, meet up with friends, or go for a walk.
Your diet may have a lot to do with your stress, as well. Examine what you’re eating, and change your lifestyle to incorporate healthier foods that are low in carbohydrates. These foods will keep your blood sugar level stable and will not crash your mood. You can also consider rebooting your body with the Fasting Mimicking Diet.
(b) Change Your Awareness
Stress helps in ways that may surprise you. Become aware of your stress.
Being under stress does not always need to be a bad thing. Stress can motivate you and teach you how to change your life for the better.
Stress can give you energy, and help you re-evaluate what you really want to get out of life. Stress can help you reach your deadline and push yourself to the next level. So, embrace it, and love yourself with or without stress.
(c) Change Your Mindset- The Stress Mindset Theory
A recent study by Stanford University on stress showed how important it is to shape our mindset to deal with stress and avoid negative cognitive, emotional, and physiological responses. They called this the “Stress Mindset Theory”.
What you choose to do when you’re stressed will determine whether or not you are being friends with your stress level.
When you say to yourself “no, I am not going to eat this or drink this” and proactively work on managing your stress, then you can help your physical body, your hormones, as well as your mental state get over the stressful phase in your life.
(d) Change Your Outlook
“Equally important, gratitude can help take the edge off stress. Counting one’s blessings elevates one’s mood, which studies have shown can reduce the physical effects of stress.” (Deborah Norville)
Print a photo of yourself as a baby. Place that photo in your wallet with a big red heart on the back of it.
When you feel stressed out and about to abuse yourself and others, take the photo out and look at it.It is you, as a child. This is how gentle you have to be with your stress.
You also want to learn how to stop feeling sorry for yourself, embrace your shortfalls and be gentle on your own soul.
Life is short, and you need to live it well, with optimism, and with gratitude.
How To Shift Your Focus From Bad Stress To Good Stress Immediately
When you feel stressed out, pause for a moment and realize that it shall pass.
Here are some healthy coping mechanisms to embrace stress and appreciate the good things about stress. On the onset of feeling stressed out, do one of the following or a combination of them:
- Listen to jokes, or go on the internet and find humorous segments.
- Go outdoors and feel your surroundings.
- Walk around and get some oxygen in your body.
- Get together with friends over coffee or lunch.
- Pet your pet, or go to the pet store and take a look at cute animals.
- Listen to upbeat or relaxing music. Music is an amazing tool that can change your mindset in as little as a few minutes.
Final Thoughts On Good And Bad Stress
Stress can be translated into real toxic levels in your body in the form of the stress hormone cortisol.
You can curse your stress, fight it, eat it out with junk food, drink it out with liquor, or you can learn to live with it and turn it around.
Engaging with stressors does not have to be a negative event. Positive ideas about stress can help you cope with life. Don’t perceive stress as the enemy. It is how you cope with it that will shape your life. It is important to be aware of your stress and to help yourself reduce it.
When stress goes unmanaged, it can turn into depression, self-defeating thoughts, self-loathing, poor health, substance abuse, or even violence.
Learn how to manage stress and become its friend. Give it space in your life, or you will be a slave to it and it will turn against you. Masking stress with non-productive things and substances can hurt you. This is when stress will be the lion coming at you, and it will win.
Now, it’s your turn.
What is your experience with stress, and how do you cope in a positive way? Share your thoughts below.