Stress is the new buzzword for our times. Everyone’s stressed out and dealing with stress. Its linked to all sorts of ailments and even cancer. We constantly hear friends and co-workers complaining about how stressed they are and endless products and activities are touted for their “stress-relieving” capabilities. But what does it actually mean? When it comes to stress, misconceptions about its causes, symptoms and treatments are everywhere.
What is stress?
We generally use the word “stress” when we feel overloaded and wonder whether we really can cope with the pressures placed upon us.
Anything that poses a challenge or a threat to our well-being is a stress. Some stresses may get us going and be good for you – without any stress at all many say our lives would be boring and would probably feel pointless. However, when stress undermines both our mental and physical health and affects functioning, it is red flag that we need to slow down and get a grip over ourselves and figure out how to deal with the situation.
The difference between “stress” and “a stressor” – a stressor is an agent or stimulus that leads to one feeling stressed. Stress is the feeling we have when under pressure, while stressors are the things we respond to in our environment. Examples of stressors may be noises, unpleasant people, a speeding car, or even going out on a first date. Generally (but not always), the more stressors we experience, the more stressed we feel.
Stress – fight or flight response
The way you respond to a challenge may also be a type of stress. Part of your response to a challenge is physiological and affects your physical state. When faced with a challenge or a threat, your body activates resources to protect you – to either get away as fast as you can, or fight.
Our fight-or-flight response is our body’s sympathetic nervous system reacting to a stressful event. Our body produces larger quantities of the chemicals cortisol, adrenaline and noradrenaline, which trigger a higher heart rate, heightened muscle preparedness, sweating, and alertness, which help us protect ourselves in a dangerous or challenging situation.
When we are in fight-or flight response mode, non-essential body functions slow down, such as our digestive and immune systems, so that all resources can then be concentrated on rapid breathing, blood flow, alertness and muscle use.
Most of us have varying interpretations of what stress is about and what matters. Some of us focus on what happens to us, such as breaking a bone or getting a promotion, while others think more about the event itself. What really matters are our thoughts about the situations in which we find ourselves.
Now that we know how the stress response of our body works, lets Lets bust some myths about stress!
Myth 1: Stress is everywhere, so you can’t do anything about it.
Not so. You can plan your life so that stress does not overwhelm you. Effective planning involves setting priorities and working on simple problems first, solving them, and then going on to more complex difficulties. When stress is mismanaged, it’s difficult to prioritize. All your problems seem to be equal and stress seems to be everywhere.
Myth 2: Stress is the same for everybody.
Completely wrong. Stress is different for each of us and so are our reactions to it.
Myth 3: Stress is a choice. Stress is a byproduct of subconcious beliefs you have about the world. You can’t choose not to believe something. You believe it because you think it’s true. To eliminate stress, you must learn to challenge these beliefs so that you see them differently. That’s not a function of choice. It’s a function of insight.
Myth 4: Stress is always bad for you.
According to this view, zero stress makes us happy and healthy. Wrong. Stress is to the human condition what tension is to the violin string: too little and the music is dull and raspy; too much and the music is shrill or the string snaps. Stress can be the kiss of death or the spice of life. The issue, really, is how to manage it. Managed stress makes us productive and happy; mismanaged stress hurts and even kills us.
Myth 5: No symptoms, no stress.
Absence of symptoms does not mean the absence of stress. In fact, camouflaging symptoms with medication may deprive you of the signals you need for reducing the strain on your physiological and psychological systems.
Myth 6: Only major symptoms of stress require attention.
This myth assumes that the “minor” symptoms, such as headaches or stomach acid, may be safely ignored. Minor symptoms of stress are the early warnings that your life is getting out of hand and that you need to do a better job of managing stress.
Myth 7: Stress is not a big deal.
The word “stress” is sometimes confined to anxiety about deadlines, which most people can live with, but it’s actually much bigger. Every moment of frustration you have about your job, every point of friction in your relationships at work and at home, every fear or concern you have about money, your health, and the future—essentially, the sum total of all the negative emotions in your life, from the moment you get up until the moment you lie down, is stress. For most individuals, it is a very big deal.
Myth 8: The most popular techniques for reducing stress are the best ones.
Again, not so. No universally effective stress reduction techniques exist. We are all different, our lives are different, our situations are different, and our reactions are different. Only a comprehensive program tailored to the individual works. therefore, contact a health professional like a counselor to help you cope with stress.
We hesitate to admit how big an impact stress has on our lives because of the myths above, which are woven tightly into our culture and prevent us from dealing with stress more effectively.
Remember that stress doesn’t come from what’s going on in your life. It comes from your thoughts about what’s going on in your life. Popular “stress management” tools relieve the effects of stress, but not the cause, so the stress returns again and again. A more effective long-term approach involves learning to think differently about challenging situations so the stress is no longer produced.