Googled it. I do a lot of research that way. So, I googled the word stress and the first page of results talked all about reducing and relieving stress. The first non-ad post included the words “harmful effects” in its title. The common questions people have about stress include how to deal with it and wondering if it can make you sick. There’s a lot of information out there about stress. In fact there’s so much, that rather than read it all, I decided to just write. We’ll call it limited research!
That said, my thoughts about stress are based on my experiences and things I’ve learned from a variety of sources over the years, and if you want a second opinion…google it yourself! I’m no doctor, psychiatrist, or yogi. But I do like being real about life and how I live it. You can live it however you want, even if it’s different from me! I should probably also mention that I’m writing this in the wee hours of the morning when I should be sleeping and I’m not sleeping and there’s not good reason why I’m not sleeping but I’m not so I’m writing about stress. So, yeah. There’s that.
Stress. It’s a multifaceted thing, in a few different ways.
Let’s start with good and bad: eustress and distress. My senior year of college was a big year. I don’t think that’s uncommon, really, but here’s what I learned while in therapy dealing with my big year. I was planning a wedding to a sailor who lived on the complete other side of the country (when he didn’t live in the ocean). One day my very wise therapist said to me, “You know that good stress is still stress.” And that’s when I learned the term eustress. It refers to the stress that we feel with the positive things in our life. It can also refer to the stress that encourages or motivates us beneficially. And, even when we’re happy about something that’s stressful…it’s still stressful.
Distress, on the other hand, is what most of us think of as stress. It’s the negative stuff. The stress that makes us wring our hands, eat crap we know is no good, run harder to try to get away from it. It can motivate us too, but the effects are often less that ideal on our mind, spirit, and body.
There are also three types of stress in length: acute, episodic, and chronic. Acute stress is short lived. Episodic returns periodically. And chronic is long-term.
Now that we know about the different styles stress can come in – like it’s a dress or something! Are you wearing the latest fashion or still sporting your stress from high school? Huh, that was pretty good. ARE you still holding on to stress from 20 years ago? It’s something to consider, at least. But, I digress…I was going to say…
Now that we know about the different styles stress can come in, let’s talk about what it can do for us and to us. And then we’ll talk about what we can do about it.
As I’ve already said, stress can motivate us. It can help us focus our energy in the right amounts. But other times is can completely distort us – making life seem almost like a kaleidoscope and we can’t find a place to even begin focusing. Some of us stress eat, others can’t eat a thing when they’re overwhelmed. Stress can make our hearts race, distract our minds, and make us question our faith.
It can, yes, mean sleepless nights for some (although I really don’t know why I’m so awake – I truly don’t think I’m stressed about anything at the moment) or it can create a desire to stay in bed, under the covers for longer and longer and longer. Some people work out when they’re under stress. Other people beat themselves up when they’re feeling beaten up by stress.
Stress can be a contributing factor in a whole host of medical ailments and mental health issues. Sometimes it can rock us to our core. Sometimes we bounce back after struggling through a stressful situation and other times we’re so rocked that we need help finding our way out of the tangles.
Good stress or bad…long term or right now…what are some healthy ways to manage stress? How can we deal with it in our lives and keep it from completely overwhelming us?
Well, I said we’d talk about it, but I actually already have in my post “Dump the Morning Grump.” It’s a quick read and will give you some ideas to help beat the stress in a healthy way.
I will add two other things to the list, though…
- Laugh – There’s nothing like a good, belly laugh or a carefree chuckle. The adage of laughter being the best medicine is a good one. It exists for a reason. Joy can heal.
- Massages – This isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but I love a good massage. It’s a wonderful way to not be worrying about anything else. A deep tissue or therapeutic massage can literally push the tension out of your muscles. A relaxation massage can help clear your mind for a time.
Okay, I said two things, but then there’s this one last thought. I thought about adding it in and saying three things, that would have been easy. But this is pretty important so I decided to let it stand on its own:
Give yourself a break.
That’s right. You’re only human. You’re only one person. That’s a wonderful, beautiful thing. Every now and then…remind yourself that you are enough. You’re doing all you can. You’re doing the best you can. You can leave whatever’s got you moaning and groaning on a shelf (it’ll be there when you get back) and take a walk, focus on something else, take a nap, bake some cookies…whatever you do. But give yourself a break. You deserve it.
Even when you wake up six hours earlier than usual…give yourself a break. You deserve it. High five!