Time to answer your stress questions!
First up: Is stress bad for you?
The answer is both yes and no, because ultimately it’s all about the right amount of stress for YOU.
Yes, excessive, unrelenting stress is definitely not good for you. It erodes your health.
However, not all stress is bad. In fact, in order to thrive, we actually need some stress to feel juicy, purposeful, and alive.
You need to find your stress “sweet spot.” What is that? The sweet spot is where you have enough stress to move you (motivate, encourage, get you working toward goals), but not so little stress that you’re bored, and not so much stress that you’re burnt out.
Now, how do you find that spot for yourself?
Stress that’s long-lasting, relentless, and demoralizing is also the kind of stress that’s associated with depression and anxiety, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, stroke, and cancer. If you’re dealing with those kinds of stressors, consider where you have control, and try to reduce—or even avoid—them when you can. Also, ask for help. Sometimes having another person around to tackle a problem with you makes the difference between feeling like you’re drowning and feeling like you’ll make it to the shore.
On the the other side of that, when stress occurs in shorter bursts, and you feel like you have some control over it, as well as opportunities to recover in between, it can actually help you become stronger and more resilient over time. This kind of stress tends to feel empowering: It builds you up, not breaks you down.
One important consideration: What feels stressful is highly subjective.
Just like “relative intensity” in the gym, your perception of stress has a big impact on how stress feels and what it does to your health.
If you believe stress is always terrible and should be avoided at all costs, you’ll be more likely to cling to your comfort zone, fear the future and what could happen, and steer clear of situations that could lead to growth. In an awful self-fulfilling prophecy, stress actually does become more harmful.
However, if you believe stress can make you stronger, wiser, and more resilient, you’ll be more likely to proactively solve problems, seek out challenging experiences and benefit from stress in your life.
Luckily, you have some control over your perception.
You can help shift your perspective, use these examples of how some stress can actually enrich various aspects of life:
▶ Stress can strengthen relationships. Some conflict is actually crucial for healthy, secure relationships—it’s a pathway to better understand others. By working through things together, we grow together.
▶ Stress can make you smarter. Managed effectively, stress helps you focus your attention, plan for future challenges, and enhance memory and learning. Stressors might even feel like fun puzzles to solve.
▶ Stress can build muscles and endurance. This should feel pretty obvious if you attend a gym, intermittent physical stress (i.e. working out), coupled with appropriate recovery helps your body become stronger and more capable.
Your take away: choose to believe that stress has the capacity to benefit you. It can help you learn, grow, and live a bigger, more adventurous and meaningful life.
Check back in the coming weeks for more questions and their answers.