When Stress Is Good & How to Handle The Bad Stuff Better
Word on the street is that stress is bad for you.
It raises cortisol levels, making it harder to stay healthy.
It causes mental and physical anguish.
It even eats your brains… literally! The chemicals elevated by stress erode neurons in your noggin, leading to sluggish cognitive function.
When it comes to chronic stress, it’s hard to find a silver lining. But, not all stress is chronic stress, and the kind that’s not can actually be good for you.
Here’s the lowdown on different types of stress:
Acute vs Chronic Stress
Before we get started, let’s define the different types of stress.
Acute Stress: Short-lived stress (such as cramming for a test, or a car screeching to a halt as you walk across the crosswalk)
Chronic Stress: extended periods of stress that are uncontrollable (such as an over-demanding job you’re miserable at, or being in an unhealthy relationship)
Chronic stress is the cause of all the nasties (and more) listed at the top of this article. All-around, it’s something you want to avoid. Science has shown that acute stress, however, can actually be beneficial for you in many ways.
Here are some of the many ways that acute stress can make your life better:
It revs up your immunity. Mice exposed to brief but intense stress were better able to stave off the flu.
Memorize this: mice exposed to brief amounts of high stress performed better on memory tests 2 weeks afterwards.
It could help you recover after surgery. Patients who had short-term moderate stress before surgery actually recovered faster than those who experienced low or no amounts of stress.
It gets you the physical changes you want. In order to adapt to the stress you put on it, your body has to make itself stronger and more efficient. You have to stress your body with intensity in your workouts to kickstart your muscle fibers to grow, metabolism to speed up, and fat storage use to kick in.
You may live longer! When researchers periodically stressed out flies and worms by exposing them to heat, they ended up living longer.
Convinced yet? Ok cool… because there are a lot more benefits that I could list!
Obviously, a little bit of stress ain’t such a bad thing in moderation (that “moderation” thing sounds all-too familiar, doesn’t it?).
But what if you’re dealing with chronic stress? What if your stress-moderation has long since jumped ship?
I got your back here, buddy. Read on for how I help people alleviate long-term pressure…
Alleviating Chronic Stress
Identify your major stressors
The first step to fixing something is identifying what needs to be fixed. Use these questions to find out what the causes of your stress are:
- Do you worry a lot? About what?
- Are there certain situations that take most of your time and energy?
- Do you walk away from dealing with certain people or situations feeling drained or upset?
Use the answers from the questions above to direct you toward your major stressors. Most of your answers will point you toward one or two factors in your life. These are your sources of stress.
Get it out
How many times have you heard me recommend outlets? Well, you may want to cover your ears, because here I go again…
I can’t stress enough (no pun intended) the importance of finding an outlet for your stress. There are 3 types of outlets that work best in conjunction with each other, but if one speaks to you more than another, concentrate on that one to start.
Find a way to get all that pent-up energy out of your system. Work it out in a way that you love best: run, hike, box, lift, surf, swim, walk, anything! Just focus on your movements and breathe.
Channel those emotions out into whatever kind of art you love to create. Write, draw, dance, sing, paint, act, photograph, you name it. Even if it doesn’t turn out as you intended, concentrate on just producing something. Let your creation calm you.
Just because therapy is implied by the name of this particular outlet, it doesn’t mean you have to go pay someone for it. The therapeutic outlet can work for you in the form of talking to a good friend or family member, chatting in a facebook group, or even going to a book club meeting. Talk it out with someone you trust, who supports and encourages you to be your best self. That may be your therapist, or it may be your Mom. Whoever it is, open up and let it out.
There are 2 ways you can go about this step if it applies to your situation at all:
1. Drop the stressor altogether
Whether this be a person, job or even living space, you can make the extreme decision to leave it altogether. Now, that may bring up a whole host of stressful feelings, and that may be good or bad.
Change is a frightening thing, but I want you to periodically ask yourself: If I didn’t have this major stressor in my life, would I be happier?
Be honest, and take action to live the life you deserve.
2. Hire Out
If you can’t get rid of the entire stressor, try outsourcing at least some of it.
For instance, if your work is demanding too much of you, explore the idea of hiring a virtual assistant to take some of the menial tasks off your hands (like scheduling, taking calls or ordering items online).
If you’re stressed because of a busy home life, try using TaskRabbit.com for everyday errands, start a rotating carpool to drop off and pick up groups of kids from school or drive them around to give you a little more space in your day, or schedule weekly play dates that rotate locations so that you can have some time to yourself every so often. Consider asking a close family member or trusted friend to do some of these things for you if you’re low on cash.
There are so many ways to get out of daunting tasks thanks to the miracle of technology. Don’t let those nagging errands way you down when you can spend a little and gain a LOT of peace of mind.
Schedule recovery days… or weeks
Ok, so not all of us can just up and leave our stressful job or forget about a loved one who’s sick, so here’s what I propose to you: just as you have to schedule in recovery days to give your body a chance to get stronger in between workouts, you can schedule in the same kind of “rest days” into your life to take a break from chronic stress.
If your schedule allows, schedule a full day every week to take off from that stressor. Leave your phone at home, close your laptop, and go hang out in a place that relaxes you with friends who remind you of just how awesome you are.
Can’t take a full day off every week? Then make sure you schedule in vacations, even mini ones. Having a little off time to look forward to can do wonders for your sanity.
Funds a bit low for vacays? How about a stay-cation? Scheduling time off even if you stay home (just don’t tell anyone you’ll be at home) can be just as beneficial as paying moolah to go somewhere. Just make sure you’re committing to your time off, instead of using that time at home to catch up on work.
Take charge of your life
Now, there are quite a few stressors that won’t be solved by any of the above tactics. One of the main ones is your health or weight.
You can’t outsource your weight loss. You can’t schedule time off from being unhealthy.
So I have a unique recommendation for those of you who suffer from chronic stress with the trigger of being unhappy with your body.
Make the choice to prioritize your health, then ACT on it.
Stress is largely about how you perceive the stressor. The person down the street who may be going through the same thing may perceive their situation as a lot more stressful than yours, and visa versa.
You can choose to let this take over your life, or you can choose to take action to change it.
If you are overweight and tired of letting it get you down physically and emotionally, make the choice RIGHT NOW that your health is your priority.
From now on:
You choose energizing foods over the ones that taste good for a second, then make you feel like crap afterwards.
You choose movement over sedentary life.
You choose empowerment over victimization.
Change is up to you, but that doesn’t mean that you’re alone in this.
On September 16th, I’ll be opening the Strengthen from The Inside Out Intensive for Fall enrollment. If you want to reframe your habits AND thoughts to lose weight and obtain ultimate self-confidence from the inside out, be sure to sign up for the early bird email list for an exclusive deal…
STRENGTHEN FROM THE INSIDE OUT INTENSIVE
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For more information on The Intensive, click here.
Stress doesn’t have to rule your life. In fact, it shouldn’t.
Knowing when stress may actually help you grow can help you release some of the resistance to it, allowing it to flow through it’s course instead of holding onto it and making it worse.
If you’re dealing with chronic stress, know that you’re not alone. That said, the depressing numbers don’t make it ok for you to suffer.
Try taking any of the suggestions above, or maybe even all of them! You are the master of your life, and you do not have to struggle with stress just because it is universally accepted as the norm.
Take charge. You deserve inner peace. Create it for yourself.
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