Good Stress vs. Bad Stress: 4 Simple Steps to Assess Your Stress
How many of you go through your life feeling rushed, overwhelmed, stressed out? I think most people could say that this is the case at least part of the time. This was the case for me ALL of the time for many years! Stress management is something that we all can use in our lives. I’ve spent the better part of two decades researching and trying out different stress management techniques and tools. Some have worked well for me. Others… well, not so much. As a result of this personal-need based research I have transformed myself into a person who is able to use stress management techniques to live a peaceful life. There’s no more spinning out of control with stress in my life. Instead, when life throws its stressful situations at me I use my stress management techniques to regain peace and serenity. Are you ready to transform your life into “Peaceful Living”? Follow my blog to learn these stress management techniques and bring more peaceful living into your life!
~ As an added bonus, follow my journey as my family moves from California to South Carolina! Talk about stressful! I invite you to come along for the ride as we go through the biggest transformation of our lives in my blog series “Moving & Changing. You are invited to learn from my successes and from my mistakes. And I hope you will converse with me along the way, sharing your insights and advice from your own experiences as I share mine.
Good Stress vs. Bad Stress:
Not all stress is bad. I think we all know this. For example, if we didn’t have a little stress in our lives we would lack motivation to do much of anything. If we didn’t have some stress about paying the bills, and the consequences of not paying the bills, why would we pay them? Being conscientious is also a type of good stress. If we didn’t worry a little bit about the effect of our words and actions on others, we most likely wouldn’t be nice people all of the time.
The question becomes, when does a little bit of good stress become too much and turn into bad stress? Is there a certain tipping point that a person reaches where life’s stress becomes too much? Is that point the same for everyone? Is there a range that we as a society can attribute to all people? Or is this hypothetical tipping point completely individualized?
Not all people are the same. In my experience, as much as we’d like to have a “reasonable person standard” (I borrowed that from the legal field) for understanding when stress becomes too much for people, this is not something that is possible. In short, we all have different tipping points. That said, there is a lot of research underscoring that too much stress is bad, unhealthy, unproductive, however you want to term it, for every human! There is also a lot of research-based evidence that people can become as addicted to stress as they can any of the known addictive substances – e.g. narcotics, nicotine, alcohol, etc.
When Does Stress Turn Bad?
So how do we figure it out? How do you know when stress has become too much for you? According to the American Psychological Association, “stress becomes dangerous for your health when it interferes with your daily activities for a prolonged period of time.” www.apa.org. Hmmm… I have to say that I disagree with them to a certain extent. For example, when I was in my doctoral program I was under stress for a prolonged period of time. It affected my health on a daily basis: My immune system was compromised (I had constant sinus infections); I had a constant headache; my hair thinned; my skin was sallow; I had insomnia; and, I was depressed and anxiety ridden person who wasn’t very nice to be around. But here’s where I disagree with the APA; my daily life went on as normal. I got my work done, I took care of my household, and I even socialized with what little time I had leftover (which truly wasn’t much). Thus, my daily activities went on without interference. Nonetheless, I was miserable and unhealthy.
The Beauty of the Mind-Body Connection:
When assessing when good stress has tipped to bad stress what I have found works in my life is the mind-body connection that comes from yoga and meditation. For some, this connection comes through different forms of exercise, usually something individual like running or swimming. It’s also not something that comes for everyone right away. Mind-Body connection is something that comes with practice.
Here’s how it works in a nutshell. When you are very connected to your physiology (your body) the neurons in your brain become more sensitive to conditions associated with stress. So when you start to feel fatigued, when you start to feel anxious, when you start to feel depressed, your brain is triggered more quickly than when you are not in tune with your body. Put another way, the neurons of a person who practices mind-body connection are triggered more quickly than the neurons of a person who does not.
So what? You may be thinking. Maybe you’re asking, “why would I want to know more quickly that I’m not feeling great?” The simple answer is, because the sooner you know that your body is in distress, the sooner you can do something to correct it. Thus, you will then not end-up with prolonged stress that is debilitating to your health. As a bonus, people with highly attuned mind-body connection also feel the effects of feeling good earlier as well!
Getting Started With Mind-Body Connection
Here are 4 simple steps to deepening your mind-body connection:
- Lie down or sit comfortably.
- Close your eyes & start to breath deeply.
- Starting at the top of your head concentrate for at least 5 breaths on each area of your body: Ask yourself how it feels physically. Is it tense? Is it soft? Do any areas, especially tension-holding areas such as the jaw, neck and shoulders, hip and low back feel different from other areas of your body? Do they feel different as you breath?
- Now, take a brisk walk or jog and do the same thing – just with your eyes open 😉
Go through this process several times over the course of a week. If you can do it daily, even better. Once you’ve got the hang of it and you feel like you’re starting to really feel your body, try doing a quick check-in throughout your day. For me, I know when I start to feel tired or my neck and shoulders start to ache a little bit. Then I know to take a break, or, if it’s the end of the day, it’s time to quit for the day. I even took a break in the middle of writing this blog. I had a choice to work through lunch and eat while I write (not something I recommend) or to go have lunch with a friend. I went to have lunch with the friend. The result was not that I’m not finishing the blog on time. The result is that I’m finishing it on time and It’s going much more smoothly than it was during the 15 minutes prior to my deciding to go to lunch.
Let me know how this goes for you! Or, if you’re a seasoned Mind-Body connection practitioner, share what works and what doesn’t for you!
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