STRESS AIN’T ALL THAT BAD
By Sandye Linnetz
Most discussions of STRESS generally focus on its negative side. Yes, ‘bad’ stress (aka distress) can be at the root, the cause, of so many problems, but there are other degrees and types of STRESS, too. The question is not “Do you have STRESS”, because the answer will always be “YES” if you are alive. It is, instead, “What kind of STRESS do you have”? (And in a future blog the question will be: How do I manage my stress?)
Physical Stress (head aches, adrenalin rush, indigestion, insomnia – lots of sick days, high energy, quick movement, sudden strength)
Social Stress (feels like all you do is work and sleep, excitement, find yourself withdrawing, the thrill of ‘wowing’ the crowd)
Cerebral Stress (feel brain dead, come to work and can’t even get started, unexplainable brilliance)
Emotional Stress (clinical depression, endorphin release, adrenalin rush, love, addictions – might be shopping or coffee, elation)
Spiritual Stress (joy, feeling of helplessness – want BIG changes, rapture)
So STRESS isn’t really a totally bad thing, then? No… not all stress…
Good stress (aka eustress) is manifest as drive, energy or excitement. It’s what makes you want to get up in the morning and get started on your day. Good stress is what you feel when you are standing at the top of the mountain ready to ski down, when you are about to make a presentation or when you are defending a co- worker. Good stress gave the firefighters at the World Trade Center the energy they needed to rescue people. Good stress gives us the adrenaline boost we need to jump out of the way of the car that ran a red light and is speeding toward us. Other examples of good stress might include physical exercise, mental challenges, emotional elation or spiritual fulfillment. Many or most of the activities that we enjoy, place us under pressure; so, we are technically under stress while performing them. The difference is that we are wholeheartedly – and consciously – choosing these pressures. There is no conflict within – we enjoy the experience of good stress.
We embrace these kinds of pressures and stimulation. Without good stress, we grow complacent, indifferent or simply bored, but with good stress we are constantly growing – we feel truly alive!
In order to know joy, we must feel stress. I experienced joyful stress when my daughter announced she was pregnant… and again when I saw my grandchild for the first time. Think of the best times you’ve ever had; your heart beats wildly, your emotions surge (your adrenalin is definitely flowing) but because it’s a pleasant reaction, we don’t generally label it as a stress reaction. Yet it is. When you go to watch your favorite hockey team play, the adrenalin flows. And depending on which team scores, you experience joy or disappointment. Either way, your arousal rate is very high, your system is pumping out chemicals. You are being STIMULATED! Thank you, stress.
Good stress is the excitement you feel on Christmas morning, or when you see your child perform in a concert, or you get a call unexpectedly from a dear friend, or you smell cookies baking, or you win at bingo, or you hear a golden oldie on the radio that fills you with cherished memories. (Sometimes good stress is good sex, too!) These are all positive healing stresses.
At work you experience positive stress when you are about to deliver a presentation, find out you are getting a raise or promotion with new responsibility, solve a problem, move to a new office, get a new assignment, meet a new co-worker, receive praise, know you did a good job and as you wait for acknowledgement.
We all need a degree of stress to get up in the morning; it is critical to feeling motivated and interested in getting on with your life. And beyond that, and the real reason that we’d never want to be ‘un-stressed’, is that stress has us jump out of the way when we are about to collide with a car or falling object; when we are in danger and that fight or flight thing kicks in. Don’t poo poo it, celebrate it! Stress can do a body good!