I have learnt that not all stress is bad stress. Starting a new job, a new relationship or moving into a new home can be stressful however these things are often classed as “good stress”. So how do we know what is good stress and what is bad stress and what should we do about it, if anything? Let me start with the bad news first…Bad stress can occur due to a number of things such as major disappointment, failure of making a team or passing an exam or even a collapse of a marriage or relationship. Generally these things are very stressful and that is totally normal and ok. However, if the stress is pro-longed it can cause major depression or other mental illnesses.
It is so important that you and I recognise bad stress straight away; it’s important to let it naturally occur, however it is not healthy for it to pro-long in our lives as it can escalate into chronic depression, acute physical illnesses or mental illnesses. When the stress is pro-longed and is not addressed in a timely way then it can be very harmful. The good news however is that small amounts of stress is actually good for us and keeps us motivated and moving forward. It can make us feel “alive”. It’s all about what you do when faced with a stressful situation either good (starting a new relationship or job) or bad (breakdown of a relationship or financial problems).
When faced with a decision on how we are going to handle these stresses we can choose to procrastinate and avoid the decision making process or decide to not avoid it and let it work to our advantage. We can start to take control of the stress and deal positively with it. Here are a few things that I try and do when faced with a stressful situation:
1) Accept the situation and don’t try and run from it
2) Acknowledge that this is just a moment in time and it will pass
3) Find a way to relieve tension and calm down. This will be different for everyone. For me it is getting on the dance floor! I love to dance and feel that it releases so much tension and I actually really enjoy it. It is hard for me to feel anxiety or stress and also dance at the same time! Dancing has always been my lifesaver in stressful situations.
We can also prevent stress from taking over our lives by doing regular activities to build up our coping mechanism for when an unexpected stress occurs. I find that calming activities such as getting a massage one a week, spending time with friends or having a designated “date night” with my partner are great ways to prevent bad stress from escalating. These are all great ways to de-stress however, everyone’s copying mechanism will be different. If you don’t know what works for you then experiment and try something new or go through this list of healthy examples and find one that you like.
1) Go for a 10 minute walk – Going for a walk boosts endorphins as well as other cardiovascular types of exercise. Due to the endorphins being released it can aid in alleviating mild depression.
2) Call a friend – Calling a friend to chat about the stress allows a pathway for the stress to be released from our bodies. Often friends have greater insights into what is causing us stress and can see things from an objective point of view. Even if the friend does not provide any advice, just having them listen to us, helps us feel comforted and not alone.
3) Meet with a counselor – Cognitive behavioral therapy is often a technique used by counselors to effectively treat stress. The technique can assist in changing the negative thought patterns that we may have due to the stress. A counselor can help us find new ways of thinking about stressful events and challenging our negative thought patterns.
4) Take up a new hobby – Doing a new hobby that you enjoy provides a break from our minds because we have to focus on something completely unrelated to what is causing the stress.
5) Watch a funny movie – Laughter provides a workout for our muscles and releases endorphins. Any movie that makes us giggle will help reduce stress. It is fine even if you are not happy at the time because our bodies actually can not tell the difference between real or fake laughter. So any laughter is great medicine!
6) Find a quiet place to read a book – Reading can be a great way to escape from our stress. When reading we allow ourselves to be taken into another imaginary world that can distract us from daily stress.
7) Listen to some music – Calming music before we go to bed actually helps us feel at peace and is a great relaxation tool which can induce sleep.
8) Have sex – Sexual activity in a committed, healthy and loving relationship reduces stress due to the surge of oxytocin that occurs with orgasm. Orgasms lower blood pressure levels especially among women. High blood pressure can lead to heart attacks so get in the sack and get freaky!
Whatever way you choose to reduce stress ensure that you enjoy it. It is always a good idea for you and I to have a short term stress plan and a long term stress plan. After all you never know what tomorrow may bring!