Busting Common Myths About Stress
Myth 1: Stress is the same for everybody.
No its not, stress is not the same for everybody and it is not experienced the same way by everybody. What is stressful for you may not be stressful for your friend or colleague and vice versa. We all respond to stress in entirely different ways. For example, some people get stressed out at the very thought of conflict, while others enjoy it.
Myth 2: Stress is always bad for you.
Again, not correct. There are two kinds of stress, Eustress – good positive stress which drives and motivates us to achieve. We need this eustress when we are faced with a challenge. Then there is what we call stress; which is not all bad in small doses; it can be the unconscious automatic left turn to avoid a collision, acute stress response, or it can be the unrelenting re-occurring negative thoughts keeping us from getting a good night’s sleep, chronic stress response, which damages our physical and psychological health. We all have to deal with eustress and acute and chronic stress responses. Managing our stress response makes us productive and healthy, it actually keeps us alive when we need it too. It’s when we mismanage our stress response and ignore it for too long, it hurts us the most; causing us to become dysfunctional and ill. The secret is knowledge and balance. Knowledge of what stress actually is, how you can beat it and balancing your work-home life.
Myth 3: Stress is everywhere, so you can’t do anything about it.
This one is 50/50 right and wrong. Stress or what you experience as stress is actually your own stress response; your physiological, biological, psychological and behavioural response to a stressor. So, no this is not everywhere, it is your unconscious response to what you perceive is a threat to you in some way. However the stressor/trigger that causes your stress response can be anywhere, can be anything or anybody; but not everywhere and you can do a lot about it. You can plan your life so that stress does not overwhelm you, learn coping strategies, set priorities and focus on good healthy relationships. It’s only when our stress response is mismanaged that all our stress related problems get too big and our perception is that stress is everywhere. When things get this bad, you will need some stress education and a stress coach to help you find your way through all the stress in your life and lower your stress hormone levels.
Myth 4: The most popular techniques for reducing stress are the best ones.
Not true. As I already mentioned, when it comes to stress we are all different and when it comes to techniques for reducing stress we are all still different. One size does not fit all. Why would ‘the best ones’ fit all and who decides what the ‘best ones’ are? There are no universally effective stress reduction techniques, no matter what anyone tells you or what you may read on the internet or in magazines. You can educate yourself by reading and researching what stress actually is and explore some stress relief techniques. You may even try stick to what you have learned but if you are not feeling any better and are facing the same daily difficulties you may want to get some coaching and support. An individual tailor-made stress management programme incorporating the help of a stress coach works best.
Myth 5: No symptoms, no stress.
Not true, an absence of symptoms does not mean the absence of stress. Its all about stress awareness and also being honest enough to assess your own behaviour. If, for example you’re constantly irritable but convinced you have no symptoms of stress, you are in denial. Irritability is a symptom of stress. The same goes for over eating or not eating a healhy diet; not sleeping properly etc. A lot of what we think are ‘normal behaviours’ are actually symptoms of stress. Also, camouflaging symptoms with medication, alcohol, drugs, food or anything else may actually prevent you from picking up the physical and psychological signs and symptoms of stress.
It is a well documented fact that most of our stress behaviours are designed to escape from, or camouflage, the stress we are experiencing. These stress behaviours are themselves signs and symptoms of stress which we generally tend to ignore; for example comfort eating, smoking a lot, consuming too much alcohol, substance abuse and more. Another good area to examine when assessing the level of stress in your life is the state of all your relationships: work and home relationships. Are any of these relationships difficult? Are there conflicts in these relatinships? An evaluation of your behaviours and relationships will give you some indications of how stressed you are and your symptoms of stress.
We all at some point in time experience physical, psychological and behavioural signs and symptoms of stress even though we may not realise they are signs and symptoms of stress. Ignoring the stress in your life will not make it go away, it will get the better of you in the end if not dealt with before it gets out of your control.
Myth 6: Only major symptoms of stress require attention.
Again, not true. This myth assumes that you can ignore the ‘minor’ symptoms, of stress such as headaches, muscle tension or stomach acid. These minor symptoms of stress are the early warning system reminding you that you need to do a better job of managing your stress response. A good example of this is burnout. Before the body and minds shuts down in burnout it sends out constant signs of fatigue, insomnia, depression and mood swings. If these signs and symptoms are not treated in time the body will shut down; after which the mind will shut down. If you wait until you start feeling the “major” symptoms of stress response, such as; heart attack, diabetes, stroke, burnout and more, it’ll be too late.
The early warning signs of stress should never been ignored. There is no such thing as ‘minor’ symptoms of stress; all symptoms of stress should be taken seriously. A change in lifestyle such as exercising, relaxing and enjoying yourself more to deal with those early warning signs, will be far less costly than having to deal with the physical, psychological and financial costs of not paying attention to them.