Stress is a big word in the world today – from work place stress, to worry about our children‘s schooling, to feeling stressed that we haven’t been able to see family and friends, or worry about finances. It is estimated that around 85% of people believe that stress has a negative impact on their life, work and health and most believe their stress is at an unhealthy level. Those levels of stress that were considered moderate in 2007 are now perceived to be high. And yes, stress does increase the risk of ill health and death by an estimated 43%. It’s enough to make you feel stressed about feeling stressed!
Here’s the thing though, stress is only harmful if we believe it to be harmful. Yes, you did read that right – it is only when we think we are being harmed by stress that it actually becomes harmful. When we understand our stress, how to manage it, reduce it and use it to our benefit it can promote personal growth. Stress is actually intended to help us. It triggers the ‘flight’ or ‘fight’ response intended to keep us safe, so it has a pretty important role.
So when is stress harmful then? In short, when we feel like it controls us. When we feel enslaved to it and helpless to manage it. Some of the leading causes of stress are related to work, family, relationships and finances. These stressors can result in what can be termed ‘routine’ stress – a more constant, longer lasting, low level of stress. In these cases the body does not necessarily receive a clear signal to ‘turn off’ the stress response which can leave us in a heightened state over a longer period of time. This is a problem because it is not what our stress response system was designed for. Its purpose is to get us out of danger, fast. Long term stress literally wears you out – physically, emotionally, mentally.
But, it is our perception of stress that determines if it is a detrimental or motivating experience. Sounds simple, right? The issue is that there is a widely held perception in society that stress is a bad thing. But what if we could use our stress? What if we could harness it to enhance our experience, rather than diminish it? Don’t get me wrong, it is a simple thing to say, and something that requires practice to accomplish. Like all mental resilience, when we have held certain beliefs for a time, sometimes we need to work those through to let go of our reactions to those situations that trigger us.
Feeling stressed? Want some help to work it through? Get in touch to arrange your free consultation and find out how you can make your stress work for you.