Stress can feel like the bane of our existence, but unfortunately, it’s a part of life we all must deal with. Stressful situations are frequently part of our daily lives, from being stuck in traffic to bumping up against work deadlines. While stress isn’t always a bad thing and can be helpful in certain situations, it’s no secret that it also has the potential to negatively impact our health and quality of life.
In the fast-paced world that we live in today, we must acknowledge that stress of all kinds is here to stay, but when you understand how it works and what you can do to manage it, you will be setting yourself up for a happier, healthier life.
Eustress vs Distress
Stress is your body’s response to everyday stimuli, also known as stressors. The stress we experience can fall into one of two categories—eustress, the good kind of stress, or distress, the bad kind of stress. Good stress? Sounds strange right? But it does exist.
Eustress is the kind of stress that motivates you to make positive changes in your life. It does this by taking advantage of your body’s natural stress response and releasing stress hormones in small bursts over short periods of time. These hormones are naturally energizing, so when they are released in this way, it helps you become more productive, proactive, focused, creative, positive, and energetic.
One of the most common examples of this is something we’ve all done at least once in our lives—public speaking. It’s common to experience some feelings of anxiety before stepping out on stage to speak in front of a crowd. If you’re properly prepared, that anxiety quickly turns into eustress, which helps you have the confidence, clarity, and energy you need to complete the presentation. Then, once you’ve completed the task at hand, that stress melts away without impacting other areas of your well-being.
On the other hand, distress is the extreme side of eustress. This is the kind of stress that most people associate with feeling “stressed out” because it occurs when your stressors become overwhelming, are difficult to navigate, and feel out of your control. For example, some of the common causes of distress include things like health or financial concerns, the current political climate, media overload, and the unpredictability of the future.
With that being said, it’s also common for us to become distressed about smaller, more commonplace things like traffic, upcoming deadlines, or what other people think about us. These types of concerns become ‘distress’ when the amount of tension and anxiety we feel around them is not proportional to the actual circumstances we are experiencing. For example, you may feel distressed while driving because you are thinking about the possibility of getting in a car accident, even though you are perfectly safe at that point in time. However, if you merely avoided a car accident seconds ago, the stress you feel at that moment wouldn’t be distress because your fears and concerns are proportional to the experience you just went through.
Chronic Stress vs Acute Stress
There is another way that stress can be categorized that you should be familiar with—acute stress and chronic stress.
Unlike eustress and distress, which are differentiated by whether or not they are beneficial for you in the current moment, the difference between acute stress and chronic stress is defined by time. Specifically, acute stress is any kind of stress that lasts for a short amount of time while chronic stress is any kind of stress that is ongoing and lasts over weeks, months, or even years.
While acute stress can either be in the form of eustress or distress, chronic stress is almost always a form of distress. Essentially, the result of chronic distress is that your body’s fight-or-flight response is continually activated as if you are in danger. The constant activation of this response means that your body is constantly releasing cortisol into your bloodstream, which can lead to a number of negative consequences for your health.
How Stress Affects Your Body
When unmanaged, both acute and chronic distress can negatively impact your health. Acute stress can lead to things like muscle tension, rapid breathing, and increased blood pressure. Meanwhile, the impact of chronic stress can be more severe and contribute to things like loss of sleep, fatigue, poor gut health, decreased mental health, muscle pain, and a weakened immune system.
How To Manage Stress
With everything we have looked at so far, stress sounds like a heavy load, right? The good news is that there are always steps you can take to help manage your stress levels before they get out of hand. Here are some of your favorite stress management techniques for you to try.
Accept that you can’t control everything
There is only a certain amount of our lives that are within our control, so there isn’t much point in worrying about things that fall outside of that realm. When you find yourself feeling stressed, instead of trying to exert control over the situation, try changing your perspective. Accept that you aren’t in control and instead look for opportunities to learn something new and grow as a person.
Talk it out
Sometimes, the best way to deal with stress is to process the situation verbally. Lean on a close friend or family member that you trust, and speak openly with them about the stressful situation you are experiencing. Getting your thoughts and feelings off your chest can go a long way to help relieve some of that stress, and you never know when your friends or family members will have some helpful advice to share.
Breathe and relax
In the heat of a stressful moment, the best thing you can do for yourself is calm your body and mind as much as possible. It can feel hard, but do your best to pause, take a deep breath, physically relax your body, and let your mind recenter itself. Simple techniques like box breathing and progressive muscle relaxation are great tools to have in your toolbox here.
Practice self-care regularly
Taking care of yourself now will help your body and mind be better equipped to cope with stress in the future. With that in mind, find self-care practices that help you relax, reset, and check in with your body and incorporate them into your routine as often as possible. These activities will be different for everyone, but if you need some self-care ideas, you may consider things like regular exercise, meditation, yoga, a regular sleep routine, a whole foods diet, dedicated time for socializing, and screen-free evenings.
Live the #NewEarthLife
Managing stress is an ongoing process that requires commitment and effort, and finding the right stress management techniques for you can help you live a healthier, more fulfilling life. That’s why we consider stress management a key part of living the #NewEarthLife. We hope you will join us.
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