Sometimes, the word ‘stress’ alone is enough to put us on edge. Everyone experiences stress, even animals. We have a stress response known as the fight or flight syndrome.
Despite the fact that we all experience stress to greater or lesser degrees, we also experience stress in different ways and for different reasons. Stress affects the body in so many different ways.
We know so much about stress, yet we have a difficult time changing our response to stressful situations. And, we are surrounded with potential sources of stress every single day. Some people get stressed out by being cut off in traffic. Others feel their heartbeat begin to quicken its pace if they are stuck waiting in long lines. Loss is also a source of stress – loss of money, relationships, the death of a loved one. Natural disasters create stress too, as does emotional, physical and verbal abuse.
In a recent article by Lisa Tams on the Michigan State University Extension site, she writes about some of the scientific understandings of stress and its impact on the body. In addition, she lists and clarifies 6 common myths about stress and as she states, “the human experience of it.” I am sharing these myths that Ms. Tams drew from the “Stress Solution” by Miller and Smith (1994).
The more we understand stress and find ways to respond to it differently or prevent it from having adverse effects on our bodies, the better. With that in mind, here’s to your health and a stress-free year and life!
Myth 1: Stress is the same for everybody
Completely wrong. Stress is different for each of us. What is stressful for one person may or may not be stressful for another; each of us responds to stress in an entirely different way.
Myth 2: Stress is always bad for you
According to this view, zero stress makes us happy and healthy. Wrong. Stress is to the human condition what tension is to the violin string: too little and the music is dull and raspy; too much and the music is shrill or the string snaps. Stress can be the kiss of death or the spice of life. The issue, really, is how to manage it. Managed stress makes us productive and happy; mismanaged stress hurts and even kills us.
Myth 3: Stress is everywhere, so you can’t do anything about it
Not so. You can plan your life so that stress does not overwhelm you. Effective planning involves setting priorities and working on simple problems first, solving them and then going on to more complex difficulties. When stress is mismanaged, it’s difficult to prioritize. All your problems seem to be equal and stress seems to be everywhere.
Myth 4: The most popular techniques for reducing stress are the best ones
Again, not so. No universally effective stress reduction techniques exist. We are all different, our lives are different, our situations are different and our reactions are different. Only a comprehensive program tailored to the individual works.
Myth 5: No symptoms, no stress
The absence of symptoms does not mean the absence of stress. In fact, camouflaging symptoms with medication may deprive you of the signals you need for reducing the strain on your physiological and psychological systems.
Myth 6: Only major symptoms of stress require attention
This myth assumes that the “minor” symptoms, such as headaches or stomach acid, may be safely ignored. Minor symptoms of stress are the early warnings that your life is getting out of hand and that you need to do a better job of managing stress.
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