When we hear the word stress we associate it with negative things. But what if I told you that having some sort of stressor is actually a good thing?
The Stress Continuum
Picture your stress on a scale (Very similar to the dial method of fitness!). On one end of the spectrum is very little or no stress. You may think this is the place to live right? Wrong. Having little to no stressors in your life leads to a life of laziness. You have nothing to be worried about, so why bother doing anything? You can just sit on the couch. Watch some TV. Do things that make you feel good. To some extent, this is OK to be at the end of this spectrum for maybe a week or two at most. Think of when you go on a vacation, or when life gets overwhelming and you need to take a step back and recharge. These can all be good reasons to cut out the stress.
Now, let’s take a look at the other end of the continuum. High stressors. Another place that we do not want to be for long periods of time. Staying at this end too long leads to burnout and exhaustion. However, high stress times are sometimes necessary. Maybe you had a death of a loved one, a high traffic time at your job where you have to work overtime. A lot of change going on, or maybe a combination of all three. Sometimes we need to deal with a lot of stress and the crazy things the universe throws at us.
Where do you want to be? Somewhere in the middle. You won’t always stay perfectly balanced, which is important to note, but trying to float somewhere in the middle of high stress and low stress is a good place to be.
Healthy Vs. Unhealthy Stress
We talked a bit about the different parts of the stress continuum. Now what is the difference between healthy and unhealthy stress? How do we know what is okay for us to take on, and when to take a step back?
Believe it or not, there are a lot of healthy stressors out there. One suprising one? Exercise! When you exercise, you are pushing your body to your limits, and doing stuff essentially out of it’s comfort range so it can adapt and become stronger and better. Which are all natural and good things.
Although, like anything else, too much of a good thing can be bad, and you can exercise too much, putting unhealhty stress on your body. If you need more information about working out, feel free to browse the wellness section of this blog, and be sure to reach out to a professional (like a personal trainer) to work with you, if you need extra guidance!
Other sources of healthy stress can be deadlines, setting goals, or anything that motivates you to get something done. It speeds your heart rate up just a bit when you think about it and pushes you to progress in whatever you are working on in life. Again, too much of these things can become unhealhty stress.
So, all stressors can essentially be considered healthy or unhealthy–it just depends on how much or how many different ones you have at one time.
Unhealthy stressors can be exercising too much to the point of burn out, or overworking yourself to the point where it isn’t motivational. Even those crazy things life throws at us, such as getting into an accident or having a death in the family. That’s why it is important to find your personal balance. Maybe staying up into the late hours of the night to finish writing your first book is motivating to you, but not for somebody else. Just getting up out of bed may be an amount of good progress for someone.
Just remember that there is no perfect equation to have the perfect amount of stress. The continuum will shift all throughout our life and we will hit both extremes. It’s a matter of catching when you are at one extreme and you are unhappy, and trying to balance yourself out a bit. It’s about being self-aware.
How to Keep Your Stress Levels in Check
Once you do become self-aware and you find yourself in too deep with too little or too much stress it’s time to self-regulate. How? There are plenty of options:
Too Little Stress:
- Try setting some goals. Analyze where you are at right now.
- Are you exercising? Try for 30 minutes 3 times a week. Even if it’s just a light walk.
- Drink your water and add in more whole, nutrient-dense foods.
- Pick up a hobby, force yourself to get out and do some new things!
- Have you socialized in awhile? Talk to or meet up with a friend or loved one!
Too Much Stress:
- Try Meditation. Even 5 minutes a day. A good meditation book to read to get started is Just Sit. Be sure to check it out!
- Take a nice bath, or color. Maybe a self care night?
- Exercising is a great way to blow off some stream!
- Setting goals and making a plan so you aren’t so overhelmed.
- Drinking your water and eating whole nutrient-dense foods never hurt anyone!
- Consider going to a therapist or talk it out with someone close.
To be honest, most of these tips are interchangable. You can usually use all of these for being both too stressed or feeling a bit too lazy. So, that brings us back to the idea that stress as a whole is one thing–stress. And although with too much or too little can cause different effects, in the end it is essentially the same. It’s all about balancing it and getting it in a healthy dose. It’s also about realizing that in many different parts of life, you will experience the full spectrum. The good and the bad. That is how we grow and develop–it’s just important that you take care of yourself in the process!