Stress is the body’s response which is pretty normal; an optimal amount of stress can help us perform our tasks more efficiently such that we may feel more energized or better equipped personally to do what is required.
However, at times stress could turn into a problem, precisely speaking, when stress is too intense lasts too long, or begins affecting your physical or mental health it could be a problem.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), “Stress can be defined as a state of worry or mental tension caused by a difficult situation. It is a natural human response that draws us to deal with varying and difficult, and possibly threatening conditions.”
Types of Stress
Stress can be of two types- negative and positive or distress and eustress. The effect of all types of stressors is purely subjective and depends entirely on individual factors. However, these kinds of stress can be explained as under.
1. Positive Stress
Not all stress is harmful to you, eustress is positive stress or you can say good stress. It is crucial in anyone’s life as it is a source of motivation that energizes us to address problems and accept challenges. It is challenging and leads to the personal growth of the individual. A new situation is bound to create some stress in a person and eustress occurs when the said individual is confident about his/her ability to deal with the situation.
For instance, a new assignment in college or at work may create stress, but you may also feel a boost in your energy towards doing this assignment if you feel that it is a challenge that will help you utilize skills that you already have, enhance them, and build new ones while having all sorts of different experiences.
2. Negative Stress
At the same time, this situation may feel overwhelming if you feel you are not adequately equipped to deal with the assignment, perhaps in terms of your knowledge, time available to you, or resources you could feel overwhelmed if you have little interest in the topic that the assignment is concerned with. Such a situation might have negative effects on you, which could be mild, moderate, or severe in terms of their impact on your lifestyle, well-being, and physical and mental health.
This kind of stress is known as distress negative stress or bad stress. In contrast to eustress, distress occurs when the person feels unable to cope with the situation at hand.
While distress can have possible negative effects, it is not necessarily damaging or destructive for the individual. On the contrary, it may even prove to be productive given that it turns into a motivating factor for the said individual.
What is Positive Stress?
When you view a stressful situation as having a good outcome at the end of it, that stress is known as positive stress or good stress.
Examples of situations with positive stress may include being invested in an assignment as stated in the example above, labor and delivery of a baby may also create eustress, you may also face positive stress when you are going for an exam or presentation you are well prepared for, or when meeting someone for a first date.
You may also experience eustress when you willingly step out of your comfort zone. By and large, there can be many situations causing positive stress.
A new situation may create both eustress and distress at the same time. With time which one of them persists can be determined by a person’s resilience. It also depends on the locus of control, i.e., whether the person feels he is in control of his life or not.
Tangible resources like money also matter a lot. For instance, a given situation may be less stressful for a financially well-to-do and stable person as compared to a poor person.
Intangible resources like support from your family or friends also affect your perception and response to a stressor. This is the moment when the saying quality over quantity comes to practical application, a man with many friends may still feel distressed by even relatively simple situations while a person with a smaller yet closer-knit circle might have better-coping abilities, and anyways, quality interpersonal relationships have a good impact on an individual’s overall mental health.
Causes of Stress… Hassles and Life Events
There are several causes of stress. You might feel stressed because of small events or hassles in your life, or else, it may even be because of big life changes or life events or negative experiences.
These encompass but are not limited to the death of a loved one, breaking up in a relationship, moving to a new place, starting a new job, finishing an assignment, earthquakes or other natural disasters, war, or even hassles like noise, daily commute, etc.
Hassles are regular, small inconveniences that occur in life. People who are easily stressed by these are more prone to having poor mental health. In short, they are easily stressed and may find it difficult to cope with several situations. On the other hand, people who are not easily bothered by hassles show more emotional resilience and the ability to adjust to different life circumstances.
At the same time, life events refer to big changes that occur in one’s life, and being a human, they are bound to create some level of stress whether positive or negative.
At times stress can be a lot to deal with and may lead to mental health issues such that it may worsen pre-existing mental health conditions like depression and anxiety. It may even lead people to increasingly indulge themselves in recreational drugs, cigarettes, and alcohol, which are in every sense harmful to one’s health. Thus stress must be acknowledged and dealt with.
Am I Stressed…? What are the Signs of Stress?
Stress can have different effects on your emotions, body, and behavior, in short, it affects your mental and physical functioning, regardless of whether it is good stress or bad stress.
Under stress, you may feel irritable, anxious, moody, or depressed.
- Feeling overburdened
- Feeling depressed
- Feeling uninterested in your life and activities that you usually enjoy
- A person suffering from any prior mental and physical problems may find that their issues are worsening etc.
As mentioned above, stress can also produce physical effects. These include-
- Difficulty sleeping
- Difficulty concentrating
- Sore eyes
- Diarrhea or constipation
- High blood pressure
- Sudden and unexplained weight loss or weight gain.
- Changes in the menstrual cycle in women etc.
Behavioral effects of stress include-
- Difficulty in decision-making.
- Slower memory than usual.
- Nail biting.
- Snapping at people.
- Worrying too much.
- Social withdrawal.
These symptoms are pretty normal while under stress. The presence and severity of these symptoms are something that can help you determine whether you or your loved one is going through stress and whether the stress is negative or positive.
Dealing with Stress
There are many healthy ways to deal with stress, of course, there are many ways to deal with stress but healthy is the word that must be emphasized here since you don’t want to be building up unhealthy coping mechanisms.
- For starters, focus on yourself. Taking time for yourself amidst the busy lives people have in today’s world is extremely important. Self-care helps you address problems in your personal life, professional life, and interpersonal relationships and leads to a happier and more satisfied life in general since it helps you be better aware of your expectations, hopes, desires, and capabilities.
- With the advent of technology and social media, people tend to have developed the habit of sticking to their phones, desktops, or TV screens. While they prove to be good sources of both entertainment and education, it is important to take breaks from them. The screens in themselves can be a lot to take in for your body. Besides, the content that you see there affects you significantly mentally whether you are aware of it or not.
- Having a healthy diet and exercising regularly are two components of a healthy lifestyle that have proven to have benefits not only for dealing with stress but also for other mental health problems and physical health with no known side effects. Make sure to include fruits and vegetables in your diet.
- Exercise daily be it in the form of dancing, yoga, walking, running, jogging, cycling, a full-fledged workout in the gym lifting weights, or whatever resonates with you. These are bound to ease off the stress and may even help you load off some extra carbs while you’re at it.
- Give yourself time to relax and get your beauty sleep. Sleep is another thing that you should never compromise on. Your career and family may feel like a huge responsibility and compelling priority, however, you shouldn’t forget that doing so won’t work if you are unable to take proper care of yourself.
- Relaxation techniques like meditation can also be very helpful as they help you clear your mind and concentrate better.
- Positive thoughts could also help ease you up about stressful situations since they give rise to positive emotions like hope, motivation, happiness, etc.
- Also, it is necessary to recognize that sometimes stress can be extremely overwhelming and may feel like a lot to deal with alone. In times like this, you can seek help from your family and friends and also from a mental health professional who could help you sort things out in your life.
Stress is a very normal and important part of human life. One must not be too wary of it and learn to embrace the novelty of each day and situation in life. That being said, we must also remember that healthy mechanisms need to be imbibed in us to help us function better.
Also, we must not be afraid to seek help when stress feels like a little too much to deal with, after all, there isn’t even much of a stigma around stress unlike many other mental health conditions, and there is also growing recognition of the fact that sometimes people just need help in life.