Harness The Power of Good Stress!
According to a Yale University Study, 29% of workers have signs of stress on their jobs. According to the American Institute of Stress, 90% of doctor’s visits may be attributable to the signs of stress in today’s workforce and marriage relationships.
We’re all worried about the damage stress may do. A laid-off worker goes home and has a heart attack and we wonder if it was stress-related. Within a year of an ugly divorce, a woman is diagnosed with breast cancer. In the wake of last spring’s massive oil spill, residents of the Gulf Coast reported more than 25% higher rates of depression than their inland neighbors, according to a Gallop Poll.
But lately, we’ve also heard a lot about good stress, or eustress – the kind that keeps your mind active and your reflexes sharp. Since we all face signs of stress from petty annoyances to major life changes, it’s a good idea to learn the difference between stress that can contribute to sickness and good stress that helps to keep you well; and, most importantly, what you can do about it.
Harness That Good Stress
It’s important to understand that it’s not literally the signs of stress that makes us sick. It’s how our bodies react to our challenges that can trigger disruptions in the nervous system and immune system, leading to illness.
Example: Watch people on a roller coaster – Thrill seekers relish every steep plunge; other riders can’t wait for the torture to end; still others have an air of nonchalance, even boredom. They’re all experiencing the same ride, but with vastly different reactions.
Some thrill-seekers, of course, may be hard-wired to enjoy experiences the rest of us find frightening. But you can train your brain to adjust your expectations and reactions when your buttons get pushed. Researchers believe that when you foster a sense of control over a situation, your brain is likely to react more positively. It will pump-out neurotransmitters such as dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin, which boost your mood and sense of well-being.
How to take control and creating good stress include getting some perspective.
- Ask yourself, in five years, how much will this really matter?
- Admit what isn’t in your control (i.e. your boss’s grouchy moods)
- A first kiss will trigger the body’s good stress response.
- A brief encounter with good stress.
Recent studies suggest that bursts of short-term good stress may provide a host of benefits, including improving memory with increased levels of the neurotransmitter glutamate, enhancing our ability to bond with others with a cascade of the feel-good chemical oxytocin and temporarily strengthening the immune system.
So, if your response to work hassles, marriage relationship woes, or day-to-day caregiving is that of a white-knuckled roller-coaster, how can you learn to turn it into good stress, or at least take it in stride? Researchers at the University of California suggest exercise. A recent study showed that brief, vigorous exercise (as little as about 40 minutes over the course of three days) can protect you from the damaging effects of the signs of stress by shoring-up tiny pieces of DNA, known as telomeres, which are believed to play a role in supporting a healthy immune system. Have a good stress management strategy to handle the day-to-day signs of stress and stay healthy and happy.