Stress has got a severe stigma that comes with it- and rightly so! The effects of high stress levels and inability to control your stress can result in physical and mental impairment, such as loss of sleep, weight gain/loss, mental health difficulties, and early aging, and in some cases decreased life expectancy.
People deal with stress differently, while some may retreat and isolate themselves, some may get down to the gym. A large percentage who experience high stress levels at work can turn to alcohol abuse in order to de-stress or, “blow off steam”- which, in turn has detrimental effects.
Of course, it’s important to recognise the symptoms of stress and learn how to manage them. But what is more important is knowing your stress triggers so you can minimise, and potentially prevent stress hindering your day to day routine, and overall health.
While the obvious factors being work overload, lack of sleep, unforeseen personal circumstances and financial struggles are all triggers of stress; it can also be our perception of stress that elicits intensified responses. In which case, it’s important to practice listening to our bodies, and knowing the difference.
There are two types of stress, Eustress and Distress. To put it simply, good stress and bad stress. Research shows that Eustress can lead to focused attention, emotional balance and rational thoughts. Distress, on the other hand, can cause impaired attention, boredom, confusion, apathy, excitement, burn-out and disorganized behaviour. Sometimes our bodies can’t tell the difference between the two, and we go to panic mode, thus responding badly to every form of stress. Of course, everybody is wired differently, and some are more susceptible to suffering from stress than others. Hence why it is helpful to know your own triggers and practice management.
Hans Selye, a Hungarian endocrinologist, initially coined the term “eustress,” defining it as “stress that is healthy, or gives one a feeling of fulfilment or other positive feelings.”
Research has found that the energy and arousal associated with eustress can combat fatigue. Those with “indicators of eustress – feeling happy or experiencing more meaningfulness during the workday – generally experienced lower levels of fatigue overall. Channelling stress into productive actions and energy is not just that simple. But it is possible! Those big moments in your life will cause stress. That new dream job, your final exam for university, your wedding day, having a child, buying a house… all these milestones in our lives create high stress levels- this is what Eustress is.
“There’s this perception that stress is always bad for the brain, but that’s not true. Your stress response is crucial to your survival. It elevates your performance, is super-important for alertness and prepares you to adapt to the next thing that comes along.”
Daniel Kaufer, neuroscientist at University of California