What is stress?
Stress conjures up all sorts of images, ideas and perceptions.
We all have a picture of ourselves under stress and what that might look like.
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In today's busy world when we talk about stress we are generally talking about chronic stress, meaning your body and mind are suffering the ill effects of stress on an ongoing basis. Did you know that all stress isn't created equal? Good stress or Eustress is positive, energizing and we feel like we can handle it. Negative stress or Distress feels unpleasant, decreases performance and leads to fatigue.
When your body is working correctly you can easily deal with Eustress or Distress. Once you get stuck in distress it turns into chronic stress and a cascade of trouble begins in your body and mind. When I talk about stress, this chronic state that negatively affects your life, is what I'm referring to.
What if you thought about everything challenging in your life? What if you considered the things that feel hard or like a struggle? What about the things that continuously overwhelm you? Now, consider that all of those things fall into 3 categories:
Physical Stress - Broken legs, pulled hamstring, hitting your funny bone
Chemical Stress - Medications, alcohol, pesticides, Stings from wasps or bees
Emotional Stress - Death of a loved one, difficult boss, arguing with your kids/spouse
For me, understanding this immediately takes some pressure off my mind. Once you can identify the type of stress you're experiencing you've taken the first step in resolving it. You might find it helpful to note that stress can fall into more than one of these categories at the same time. For example, there is typically a body response (Physical Stress) to Emotional Stress. You may have poor posture, rounding/hunching of shoulders and/or pain.
Chronic Stress is anything that negatively affects your well-being. It's important to note that what stresses out one person isn't necessarily a stressor for everyone else. Each of us deals with difficulty in our own way filtered through our personal experiences. When you've been arguing with your spouse, maybe a walk can help you clear your mind and give you space. So that you can respond instead of reacting to the situation. However, if you're grieving the loss of a loved one a walk may not help you process the loss. You may find that you need additional sleep, so that you have plenty of brainpower to navigate the steps of grief.
Stress is a huge topic filled with subtlety and nuance. The key is breaking down your super-stressed life into manageable parts. Then, you can discover the root cause and start practicing the techniques that help you deal with it forever.
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