We live in a world steeped in stressors. Work, school, current events, and everything in between subject us to various levels of stress. If we don’t learn to manage these things quickly and efficiently, they can become overwhelming.
What impact does stress have on your health, and how can you determine the difference between good and bad stress? Read on to find the answers to these questions. We’ll also leave you with some tips and tricks to help you manage your stress level in a world filled with growing uncertainties.
Good stress vs bad stress
Popular media would have you believe that all stress is bad. While being overcome by any type of it can negatively impact your physical and mental health, there are situations where it can be a good thing. The trick is to learn how to tell the difference between good and bad kinds.
Good stress, which is also called eustress in psychology circles, is the kind you experience when you’re excited about something. Just like when you’re experiencing bad stress, your heart rate will climb and your hormones will react. Getting on a roller coaster, interviewing for a new job, or heading out on a first date are all common eustress triggers.
This occurrence is a good thing. This psychological and hormonal response is the kind of reaction you need to keep you excited about the fact that you’re alive.
Chronic stress, on the other hand, is what you would consider bad. This kind constitutes constant exposure to stressors in your daily life that you may not feel like you can escape from. When you reach this point, stress starts to affect your physical and mental health adversely. As humans, we’re not designed to live our lives with our brains steeped in stress hormones.
The effects of stress
Chronic stress can seriously affect both your physical and mental health, which is something many people overlook. Some individuals see it as a natural part of life, something we can’t avoid — it just needs to be endured.
On the physical side of things, chronic stress can cause everything from headaches and muscle tension to insomnia, fatigue, upset stomach, and even chest pain. Living your life at a high-stress level can also damage your sex drive, leaving you with little to no libido.
On the mental health side of the issue, you may find you’re beginning to feel anxious, restless, overwhelmed, or even angry. Chronic stress can also increase your risk of developing depression or anxiety, which can make it more difficult to manage your levels.
Tips for managing stress
While you don’t want to avoid good stress, learning how to manage bad or chronic stress can help you stay happier and healthier in the long run. You’ll have more energy and motivation to do things you enjoy, which subsequently creates eustress — the kind you want. Here are six tips to help you learn how to manage your stress levels:
- Get moving. Studies have shown that regular aerobic exercise can dampen stress, improve sleep, boost mood, and even combat depression in some circumstances.
- Schedule a massage. Massages always feel great, but research has found that getting a regular massage diminishes the amount of the stress hormone cortisol present in your body.
- Slow down. Meditation — whether you’re using an app, following a lesson plan, or sitting down to meditate on your own — can help you manage stress. A study from the University of California found that meditation helps your brain regulate hormones and manage stress.
- Head outside. Spend time in green spaces as much as possible. Researchers at Stanford University found that just walking outdoors can reduce stress and anxiety.
- Help others. Believe it or not, helping other people can actually aid you in managing yourself. A study from the Yale University School of Medicine found that helping others — even little things like holding doors or making them smile — can decrease your stress levels.
- Start stretching. Most people know yoga offers relaxation and peace, but this also has a scientific basis. New studies have shown regular yoga practice lessens the amount of cortisol in the brain.
Start managing your stress today
Stress isn’t going away. There are always going to be things in our lives that trigger the stress response and cause our brains to generate cortisol. We can’t always control the events that cause this to happen, but we can change the way we respond to and manage those stressors.
Take the time to learn the difference between good and bad stress. Practice some stress management techniques for those times when chronic stressors interfere with your ability to enjoy life. In these uncertain times, stress management techniques are going to become more crucial than ever. Taking time away for yourself will help you weather the storm.
This article was written by Megan Ray Nichols. If you enjoyed this article, please visit her website Schooled by Science.