The Secret Upside to StressNone By Dr. Simone Ravicz
What's the first thing that comes to mind when you think of stress? Premature gray hair? Ulcers? The urge to run to the nearest yoga studio? We all think of stress as the enemy—but is that always the case?
It's true that negative stress is by far and away the toxin of the day. At one of my recent speaking events, I asked two questions: "How many of you think that negative stress is an inevitable part of your life?" followed by "How many of you think you create the negative stress in your life?" I was surprised at the response. Not only because many of the same people raised their hands to both questions, but also because so many agreed with the notion that negative stress is inevitable in life.
I shouldn’t be surprised because, had I not studied psychology and stress for the last 33 years, I would probably have responded in the same way. When we consider our daily lives it certainly seems that negative stress is pervasive.
So, Where Does All This Negative Stress Come From?
It's a result of perceiving that you are being threatened and are unable to control the situation. You likely feel you cannot match the demands of the situation. You've probably heard of the “fight-or-flight” response arising from a perceived threat. During this reaction, your body goes through a number of changes: blood pressure, heart rate and perspiration increase; digestion slows; muscles tense for action; adrenaline and cortisol are released, and a host of other physical changes arise.
In addition, when we're negatively stressed, any negative emotions we're experiencing, such as fear, anxiety, anger or frustration, are intensified. All becomes well if the pent-up energy and stress hormones are used up allowing for balance in the body.
However, this equilibrium is infrequent for several reasons.
Blame Your Body for Overreacting
Firstly, you're reacting with the “fight-or-flight” response to events which are not life-threatening. A business deadline, a critical partner, self-criticism, rush hour…these are not life threatening events, but you're responding to these types of frequent, minor hassles as if they were. So you literally remain stressed out much of the time.
You Have Trouble Letting it Out
Secondly, the pent-up energy of the stress response is rarely let out as it needs to be to reset balance. If your boss is the stressor, you probably won't run up to him and grab him by the throat (although you may feel like it!). So, the negative stress level within you escalates, causing greater damage to your brain-mind-body. Look at your brain alone. Negative stress decreases creativity, interferes with memory processing, and impairs prob