All About StressFebruary 21, 2022
Stress. It seems to lurk everywhere. Longer working hours, less sleep, more pressure, a ‘stress epidemic’ is our reality. I lived it, to the extreme perhaps, as a banker in NYC for over a decade. As a wellness professional now, I teach all sorts of techniques to manage stress, from yoga/meditation to gratitude journaling and broader self-care techniques. But I recently got even more curious. Read below for what I learned.
A certain amount of stress is good for you! According to the Yerkes-Dodson scale, stress is positively correlated with performance, but only up to a certain point. Stress gives you the energy to rise to the challenge. Retirees who work live longer and are happier. Time of personal growth often comes from times of great stress. Stress is NOT all bad! However, at a certain point stress takes its toll. Knowing when that tipping point is for you is SO hard, because we are all wired to perceive stress, differently (see below).
Stress comes from three places, according to Dr. Amit Sood at the Mayo Clinic:
1) lack of control (there is nothing you can do to help/change a situation)
2) lack of meaning (for example, knowing how your sliver of work fits into the bigger objective that has meaning to you, however you define meaning)
3) demand vs. resources (classic getting too much work but not enough time to complete it)
Labeling your stress into one of these buckets might help you understand it.
Stress shows up physically in the body because the mind and body are so interconnected. So, the next time you notice tightness in your chest, a knot in your stomach, your heart pounding, faster/shallower breathing or sweaty palms, know that stress may be the culprit. Taking the time to notice these physical changes in the body is the first step towards recognizing stress (and recognizing is the first step to addressing it.)
Some people are born with a low stress response. If you’ve ever watched Free Solo, the documentary about a rock climber who climbs without ropes, brain scans show his amygdala (the fight/flight center of the brain) activation is significantly lower than the average person when faced with stress (extreme stress like climbing without ropes!). Interestingly, a regular meditation practice reduces the amygdala activation, changing how you perceive stress.
Changing how you view stress, from a “threat” to a “challenge”, can have a life-changing impact on how you manage stress. People who perceive stressful situations as a challenge / something they can get through vs. a threat that they are fearful about, are happier and more successful. So next time you receive an assignment at work that is above your head, see if you can change the story you are telling yourself. “I have what it takes. I can do this”.
Writing down what’s stressing you out can be a good way to get the stress out of your head and can give you a fresh perspective. Keep practicing wellness and self-care, which are key to managing stress, but I hope you have a further broadened perspective on the topic!