Don’t forget to Relax!

Now one of the most harmful things that we can do to ourselves is not letting our bodies and our minds to have a break every now and again. Now this should come to no surprise to us, but there are others out there to whom this idea comes as a foreign concept. We all know the type i’m talking about, the person who constantly has to stay busy or risk losing there minds, The person who can never make time to go hang out because they are trying to finish a project or start a new one. I refer to these types of people as ‘Workaholic’s’. Much like an Alcoholic they are an addict. However there addiction of choice is not alcohol but stress. They seem to have a notion that the only way to relive stress in there life is to bury the stress they feel under layers of work and assorted projects.

Now for these kinds of people the relief that they feel only comes from accomplishing a task or a project. They can do this several times before feeling the urge or have the ‘craving’ so to speak to take on new projects or tasks. This action of burying our stress, fining new tasks and completing them to take on more projects, creates a very unhealthy and dangerous cycle that can lead to serious mental and physical consequences. Including but not limited to, A weaker immune system, Obesity and other diet related problems, Some forms of cancer and even in some studies, Premature death, Now that’s scary to think about. But before we can dive any further into this topic there are a couple of things that we need to cover first, such as what exactly is stress and the different kinds of stress there are.

First lets take a look at the definition of stress. Stress is an (Involuntary) physical and psychological RESPONSE to a stressor. Now big thing to notice about this, Being Stressed isn’t something you chose to be, It’s something that happens in your body and its something that happens in your mind. And it is always a response to a certain stressor.

So the question now becomes what are these stressor’s that we need to be on the look out for? Well to name a few there are things such as Health Concerns, Relationships, Demanding social life, Pressure to Achieve be it from yourself or from outside sources. The list goes on and on. In fact every single thing in your life is in fact a stressor. even things that you wouldn’t even think of being so.

There are two main types of Stressor’s in our lives, There is the first type which we just touched upon. This type of stressor is called: Distress or negative stress, and it is the type of stress that everybody is talking about when someone is talking about being stressed out. The other type of stressor is referred to as Eustress. Eustress is the exact opposite of Distress, Eustress is a positive stressor that releases endorphins, ( also referred to as the ‘Feel good’ chemical) into the brain.

The Concept of Stress and Eustress

The notion of “stress” had been used for centuries in physics to explain the elasticity of a metallic object, and its capacity to endure “strain” (as for instance in Hooke’s Law of 1958). It had also been used by Hippocrates in Ancient Greece to denote a disease which combined elements of pathos (suffering) and ponos (incessant and relentless work).

By the turn of the 20th century, negative ideas of stress were widespread, largely due to the forces of industrialization and urbanization, since these forces shaped the collective psyche of Western society.

In 1956, the famous Hungarian endocrinologist Hans Selye published The Stress of Life. This instilled the concept of stress and stressor (to distinguish between the stimulus and the response) at the foreground of modern psychological research.

Introducing Eustress

Almost two decades later, in 1974, he redefines the terminology to establish a clarification between two different types of stress: eustress, and distress. Combining the Greek prefix eu-, (meaning good) with stress, eustress became the term used to define “good stress” in opposition with “bad stress.”

This was necessary for in non-roman languages, the translation of the term ‘’stress’’ was difficult.

In Chinese, for instance, the translation of the term consisted of the assemblage of two characters respectively representing ‘danger’ and ‘opportunity’, both combined meaning ‘’crisis.’’

By making the distinction between good stress (eustress) and bad stress (distress), Selye sought to show that stress, while being a reaction to a stressor, should not be always linked to negative scenarios.

Eustress = Good Stress = Health Benefits

According to Selye, eustress actually has emotional and physical health benefits.

It differs from distress with the following characteristics according to Mills, Reiss and Dombeck (2018):

  • It only lasts in the short term
  • It energizes and motivates
  • It is perceived as something within our coping ability (Our stress limits)
  • It feels exciting
  • It increases focus and performance

On the other hand, distress, or negative stress, is characterized by:

  • Lasting in the short as well as in the long term
  • Triggering anxiety and concern
  • Surpassing our coping abilities (Going beyond our stress limits)
  • Generating unpleasant feelings
  • Decreasing focus and performance (Draining our energy and our desire to accomplish things)
  • Contributing to mental and physical problems

Eustress comes in a wide variety of shapes and sizes. A few examples of a positive stressor would be; Taking a vacation or going on holiday, moving to a new place. And while yes these are big examples that we generally plan for there are also smaller Positive stressor’s that affect us every single day. Like Brushing our teeth in the morning, having a cup of coffee, putting on a clean shirt, Having dinner with the family, Even just walking outside can be a positive stressor. Basically in psychology terms everything in life is a stressor. And it can be either a positive or a negative stressor. Because everything we experience in life is a stimulus on some level. In the article excerpt above the ‘Stimulus’ is the stressor in life, and the ‘Response’ is the way we perceive or handle that stressor.

Now that’s interesting, The response is how we Perceive or handle that particular stressor. While Perception in this example is ultimately a subconscious choice, it is still something that we can change over a period of time.

The idea that “stress is bad” is problematic, if not harmful, to our health. Belief plays a vital role in shaping physiological responses. In fact I am working on an article about this very subject

So while everything in life is a stressor, it is important to try and remain calm and relaxed, even if it is during a stressful time in our lives. Simply take Life in strides, every day is a new day. And what you do with that day is one of the things that define you as an individual.

And if you are going through a tough time in life and you feel like there are few options available to you. just remember to take things easy and slow, Live for the day, don’t get caught up in all of life’s problems. As time goes on so does life and with each new day brings new opportunities to change and improve our lives for the better.

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