I drive from one kid’s sporting event to the next, talking on the phone (using Bluetooth, of course), and thinking about a looming deadline for work. The dog is sick. My son’s ball pants need to be washed for the game tomorrow. We have no food in the house.
I can’t help but wonder if the rest of America is in a constant state of stress. Stress seems to be a part of our lives. As much as we all deal with it, we may not completely understand the impact it has on us.
Here are some myths and the facts about stress:
Myth: All stress is bad
Stress is not necessarily bad. It is just a condition of our lives and can be healthy in moderate amounts. However, if stress is making it hard for you to function, then it is not healthy for you. Managing stress is the key to leading a more balanced and productive life.
Myth: No symptoms means no real stress
You may have no noticeable systems that you are stressed. On the other hand, many of us experience stress in a physical way, such as tension headaches, insomnia, weight gain or stomach problems. You may medicate these health issues, but you are not treating the underlying cause. You can also feel overwhelmed, mentally sluggish and physically run down from stress. So, while you may not be noticing symptoms, stress is still working on you physically and mentally.
Myth: Stress makes you perform better
You may think that stress is what is motivating you to meet deadlines and perform your best at tasks. The truth is that stimulation and engagement is what motivates us, not stress. Stress is the negative emotion mixed in with a positive drive to succeed.
Myth: Too much work causes stress
Stress is not tied to the number of hours you work. Work stress is more likely to be related to how you feel while you are working. If you are overwhelmed and worried about getting everything done, you will feel more stressed. If you don’t really enjoy your work, feel unappreciated or have conflicts with coworkers, you are more likely to be stressed. Stress caused by work has more to do with how you feel about your job than how many hours you work.
Myth: You choose to be stressed
Stress is a product of how your mind deals with situations, how you were taught to deal with stress and even your personality. I am a worrier. I will always worry – even about things that are out of my control. While I do create some of my own stress, it’s not necessarily something I can control. I can work on changing my beliefs and perceptions so that I can better deal with stressful situations.
Myth: You can’t avoid stress
Feeling stressed is not inevitable. While stressful situations will happen, you do have the power to control how you react to them. As we mentioned above, you can change the way you handle stress so that it doesn’t have as much impact on you emotionally and physically.
Myth: Stress is the same for everyone
We are all unique individuals and so is our response to stress. We do not experience stress in the same way or even get stressed by the same things. For example, some people get stressed by family gatherings, paying the bills or speaking in public, while others do not.
Myth: Being stressed is a weakness
Your response to stress does not reflect your strength or weakness. You may also recognize that you are stressed and that it is affecting your health more readily than someone else. This does not make you weak or a whiner. It just means you may be more in tune with your body and more willing to recognize the effects of stress.
Myth: Stress gives you ulcers
The majority of ulcers are not caused by stress. Stomach ulcers are caused by a common stomach bacteria. However, stress can increase your levels of stomach acid, which can contribute to digestive issues.
Myth: Deep breathing alleviates stress
Stress is the result of how we view things in our lives and how we process stressful situations. Breathing and relaxing do not really get rid of stress. You need to reframe your thoughts and reactions to stress. Deep breathing techniques and relaxation can help you get in a better state of mind so you can be more prepared for stress, but they don’t really remove stress once you’re in the situation.
Myth: A few drinks reduce stress
After a stressful day, it may seem like a good idea to have a few mixed drinks or glasses of wine. Alcohol actually stimulates the release of the stress hormone cortisol. Alcohol and stress have also been found to create a vicious cycle. You drink to relieve stress and stress dampens the effects of alcohol, so you drink more.
Myth: Stress and anxiety are the same
An anxiety disorder is a diagnosable mental disorder. Anxiety is chronic and can get worse over time. Stress causes worry but you can learn to overcome it with time. Stress may lessen with time while an anxiety disorder won’t go away on its own.
Now you know the myths and facts about stress. It’s within your power to change your mindset and cope with stress more effectively!