The Impact of Stress
Last week I shared my experience with clinical depression. What I learned through that experience was the impact that stress can have when left unmanaged.
I didn’t understand all those years ago what stress was, or the negative way it could affect me, but in the years since I have educated myself and am constantly working on setting boundaries to control the amount of negative stress I allow into my life.
But, not all stress is bad.
So, what is stress? Webster says : “a physical, chemical, or emotional factor that causes bodily or mental tension and may be a factor in disease causation”
Stress can be good for us. There is such a thing as a positive stress. It’s called eustress.
Eustress contributes to productivity and creativity. That’s a good thing!
When we set goals, commit to a challenge or an event, a certain amount of stress comes along with those things. That’s not a bad thing. It’s basically the push we need to stay focused and motivated to reach those goals.
Imagine living with no good stress? Each day would just roll into each other.
Eustress keeps us healthy, happy, motivated and striving to reach for something.
Do you remember planning your wedding, or helping your child plan theirs? Was that a little stressful?
This kind of stress keeps us excited and feeling “alive”.
- Motivates, focuses energy
- Is short-term
- Is perceived as within our coping abilities
- Feels exciting
- Improves performance
Too much of a good Thing
It is possible to have too much of a good stress. I can be guilty of this..
As an extrovert, I get my energy rom being around people. It is easy for me to overcommit and over join groups. That fun activity can become a burden because you have another fun activity planned right after and right after…
That’s not healthy.
What about exercise? We know it’s good for us, but what if we spend hours a day every day exercising? That could wreak havoc on your joints
Sidenote: When Jeff and I got engaged, the true introvert that he, is asked me not to fill up all of our weekends. So, I didn’t fill up ours, but I did fill up mine 😉
The body needs rest and downtime.
Typically, when we think of the word stress, we think of the bad stress, which is referred to as distress.
Bad stress triggers a quick response, but this is not a happy, or exciting, type of stress.
A phone call that informs you a loved one is in the hospital can trigger stress. A rebellious teenager or conflict in a marriage can be negative stressor in our life.
We all have stress in our lives.
Negative stress, in and of itself, is not really that awful for us, if it isn’t allowed to linger or build. This would be acute stress. The negative stress that is severe, sudden, but short lived.
If negative stress is allowed to remain, you may notice some of the following characteristics
- Causes anxiety or concern
- Can be short- or long-term
- Is perceived as outside of our coping abilities
- Feels unpleasant
- Decreases performance
- Can lead to mental and physical problems
Once the stressor has passed, we need to work on getting our body back to its pre stressed state, in order to be healthy and happy…homestasis.
We cannot live in the past and let that stressful situation overrule our lives.
While the eustress helps with our growth and creativity. The bad stress (distress) reduces our growth and creativity. You will notice that you start to not get the same enjoyment of activities, relationships, or situations as you once did.
This bad form can present itself through migraines, drinking more, aches in the body, or can lead to a change of chemicals in the brain.
When stressors start to pile up on top of each other this may be referred to chronic stress and this is where it starts to get bad.
Our bodies are not designed for to live in this state. When we face chronic stress for an extended period, things start to become UGLY!!!
Chronic stress was what ruled my life a good year prior to being diagnosed with clinical depression. Some of it was even eustress stress, but piled on top of negative (distress).
My personal experience
Within a years’ time:
- I was working full time and a mother of 2 under 2
- Moved to a new community where I knew no one
- A much longer commute to work
- Left job to stay home with kids and start a home-based business event planning
- No adult interaction
- Grandmother got sick and then died
- Started having some disagreements in marriage
- More alone time, allowed situations that I had ignored and buried come to the surface
- Went back to college
In this situation, I had not filled up my plate with activities, but I had deprived myself of the energy I get from interaction with people, and one minor stress on top of another, on top of another turned into chronic situation.
I started experiencing the symptoms of stress….. the headaches, fogginess, not being able to sleep, losing weight and mood changes.
Long term effects
Long-term stress can lead to various health problems.
According to web med, 75 – 90% of doctor visits are for stress related ailments and complaints.
Chronic stress can also lead to burn out. When we think of burn out, we often think of our jobs, but a lifestyle or certain personality characteristics can also lead to burnout.
- Perfectionism…..totally unrealistic expectation.
- Not enough fun or downtime…are you taking advantage of your days “off work” to feed your soul?
- Overcommitting ….are you constantly making excuses for why something isn’t done that you promised to have done last week?
- Guilt…do you have a difficult time relaxing and sometimes doing absolutely nothing, when you could be accomplishing something?
- Recognition…the need of approval from others that you’re doing a good job
- Multi tasking….spreading yourself too thin and trying to accomplish too much
- Self imposed time frame….a sense of urgency that things need to be done NOW
- Over planning…do you find yourself carrying over tasks day after day after day
- People pleasing….do you find that you commit to things so you don’t hurt someone’s feelings often?
- Control…you try to control every aspect or your life, your family members life, every situation you encounter?
I read an article the other day in Huffington Post. It said according to data the most highlighted passage in Kindle ebooks from the Bible is about reducing anxiety (stress) and finding trust in God.
From my personal experience, I have learned to just let things go. I do the best I can, eliminating toxic relationships, groups, and situations from my life when possible. It is to change direction. I have also learned how important it is to take care of my body where stress is concerned.
Drink more water, move the body more, pray and then let things go.
The most highlighted passage according to the Huffington article is Philippians 4:6-7
Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
How have you learned to manage the stress in your life?