Stress: It’s not all bad

Stress.  Everybody experiences it and most folks will say they have way too much.  Heck, you can search for memes on stress and wipe out days scrolling.  Whether pressure from COVID, work, school, finances, family, friendships, relationships, illness or mental health, many are juggling more balls than possible. Recent research identifies today’s young adults as the most ‘stressed out’ of all.  Lots of arguments can be made regarding (or arguing) about the ‘why’ but regardless….folks are stressed. But did you know not all stress is bad?  

Stress, in small amounts, such as the ‘normal’ (if that is even a thing?) amount of daily stress, called “eustress” can be a good thing. Often stress experienced at this level can stimulate motivation and thus lead to increased confidence and resilience. When experiencing these lower levels of stress, it can lead to seeking out support, help or friendship with others. These social connections build compassion and help folks relate to one another’s feelings and experiences. The physical benefits that result include an increase in certain hormones and brain chemicals which thus improves mood and also decreases heart rate/blood pressure, levels of cortisol (which is even called the stress hormone) and helps calm and regulate breathing.

So why don’t folks talk more about this? Likely because many are experiencing this level while also perhaps navigating learning challenges, Neurodiversity, anxiety, depression or other mental health challenges. (And let’s not forget some folks are also managing cultural, gender, gender identity and sexual orientation biases as well). What would seem like a normal stressor can often cause one (who has intersecting challenges) to respond at an elevated level.  Think of the whole ‘tipping point’, ‘straw that broke the camel’s back’ and the ‘pile on’ theory. And let’s not forget the last 2 years have been pretty far from normal when it comes to *motions at everything*.

If you’re reading this and it’s resonating, take heed as there are lots of strategies for managing stress. Creating a schedule can be a great way to wield some control of all the balls you are juggling. When scheduling, be sure to work in time for yourself, including some breaks – this will help you get into a routine. And don’t forget things like eating, exercise and sleep — seriously, scheduling those can help with reminders.  Goal setting is another way to help point stress in a functional direction – knowing you can find markers of movement (and for some, crossing those things off the list when accomplished) can relieve stress. Also – don’t be afraid to reward yourself for accomplishments — it can be not just a stress reliever but also a big motivator.  Be honest with yourself and try to tackle work and projects (when possible) when you are at your best. Think about yourself as a priority as well and do not let things like therapy, medication and other vital self care items fall by the wayside. Communication is also super important. It’s often hard to say no, to additional shifts, projects or even an evening out with friends — but sometimes we have to step back and just not add any more to our plate.

And that is just the tip of the iceberg of ways to better manage (and ideally mitigate) stress. In addition, positive coping mechanisms, understanding the root causes, and learning how to better navigate stressful environments are all part of what we can do to help. Stress impacts everyone differently and what may be easy for you to navigate could be almost paralytic for another family member. Connect with us and let’s see how we can support you!

Exhausted student girl lying on the floor among textbooks, tests and gadgets, copy space. Woman holding head with hands, got tired while preparing for exams. Education and overworking concept