Stress, the great disease of the 21st century and the main culprit in the rise of psychological therapy and the use of prescription medication worldwide. Anywhere you turn, anywhere you look, people seem to be trying to get rid of emotional stress, escape it like the plague itself. But should they? Should you seek professional help in dealing with emotional stress, or should you try to transform it into a powerful weapon with which you can conquer and rise from adversity - can such a thing even be done?
Psychological stress has a predominantly negative connotation, and rightfully so. Prolonged exposure to stressful stimuli will reap havoc on your body, mind and soul, as your body starts to produce cortisol, a hormone with numerous health implications, such as anxiety, depression, obesity, dementia and heart disease, to name a few.
However, a shot of stress here and there, can it be beneficial? A Navy SEAL would definitely agree. Exposing a human being to stressful stimuli in short intervals has been shown to increase problem-solving and induce a fight or flight reaction. But which reaction will define your immediate future? Let’s break down this topic once and for all and dig deep into the possible benefits of stress and how you can find balance in your life.
A Knife in the Dark
Subconsciously, unwittingly, it creeps up on you. Stress is first and foremost, the silent killer of dreams, slowly strangling happiness until the last speck of light leaves its eyes. To many, there seems to be no escape. There is a distinct, all-too-present difference between prolonged, consistent stress that eats away at a person’s soul, and sudden, short-term stress that hits you like a shot of electricity.
Constant stress exposure will have a detrimental effect not only on your health, but also on your cognitive functions and the ability to focus, maintain daily productivity, or even find joy in social interaction. Gradually, prolonged stress will lead to anxiety, apathy, and lethargy, slowly dissolving into depression.
Vigilance is of the essence, as the most benign triggers in life can lead you down a weary path, if you don’t prepare for them, and change your mindset to welcome the oncoming battle against adversity. Always be on the lookout for stressful stimuli, but don’t hide from them, rather learn how to fight them and weed them out of your life completely.
It might seem like you are facing an unmovable object, when in reality, you can influence your present and future to a great extent, if you apply yourself. Too often do people succumb to their surroundings, accepting fate as it is written for them. Not you, though, you want to be the only scribe of your gospel.
The key lies in decisive action. Whether you choose to fight or flee, there is no right or wrong. If your job is stressful, find a new one, or try to change your working conditions. If you have lost a loved one, say your farewell as many times as it takes for you to accept their departure. And if the love of your life seems to avoid your every attempt at finding them, remind yourself that the shackles you put on your hands are forged with your own thoughts and actions.
Action. Movement. Change. Banish passivity and conformity from your life for good, and never forget that you are on this Earth of ours for a very short period of time. Do not let Time forget who you were, or what you could have become. Let us take a look at what you can do to alleviate and actually turn the tides of stress to steer your life towards success, positivity and purpose.
A Flicker of Light
Happiness and all of life’s purpose lies in a harmonious balance of light and darkness. This is the first lesson nature has taught us, through the coming of day and the onset of a long, chilling night in the endless circle we call life. Existence is not easy, yet through adversity, you rise and become more resilient to every challenge you might face.
This is not an aphorism, it is a scientific approach backed with numerous data supporting the fact that short stress intervals can actually be beneficial and make you mentally stronger. Research has found that chronic stress is detrimental to your health; however, bursts of stressful situations will allow you to develop a physical and psychological sense of control and awareness that will make you more resilient to future stimuli.
Let’s take a math test as an example. The brain, in all of its capability and almost infinite amount of capacity is able to perceive an exam as stressful stimuli that, if elevated too much, will have an adverse effect on its performance. On the other hand, individuals who are able to perceive challenge as a positive stimulus, something from which they will have a chance to learn, grow and even prove themselves, will in turn produce the right amount of neurotrophins, a family of proteins that strengthen the link between the brain and the neurons.
This reinforced connection would actually allow you to elevate your performance, increase your concentration, and maximize your productivity. Therefore, stress can actually be beneficial; it depends on your perception of the stimuli and their unique particularities.
Moreover, one of the common fears among mothers to be is the involvement of stress in the development of their unborn babies. If allowed to persist unrelentingly, stress can produce negative effects on a newborn, yet a study from 2006 has concluded that mothers who experienced mild to moderate anxiety during their pregnancy gave birth to children with greater motor and general developmental skills.
The premise is simple: during stressful intervals, there is an innate propensity for life to survive. At all costs. The human body is astonishingly capable of protecting and programming our minds for maximum performance, and stress seems to be the perfect stimulus.
Alleviating chronic stress
While beneficial in small bursts, you should strive to eliminate chronic stress from your life. Although not easy, it is manageable, and the most important element of stress management lies in the quality of your sleeping cycles. You might have been under the impression that the shadow of stress appears during the day, yet it all starts with the way you sleep.
This is why it is of the essence to introduce a healthy sleeping regime, going to bed early and at consistent times. Moreover, you want to purify the air in your bedroom, as your quality of sleep will directly depend on the pressure and air quality during your sleeping cycle. Make sure you look for authentic air purifier reviews before making a purchase, in order to make the most cost-effective decision and ensure long-term health.
The second element of successful stress alleviation is physical exercise. Research has repeatedly shown that regular physical activity reduces cortisol levels in the body, decreases the effects of stress, and produces dopamine, the “happiness” hormone. This is not just a short-term solution, as exercise builds a strong foundation for stress resilience over time, making each new challenge more manageable.
Finally, meditate. Studies have shown that mindful meditation had a positive effect on decreasing anxiety and stress while increasing brainpower and productivity levels, among other benefits, over a prolonged period of practice. Let mindful meditation become an inviolable element of your daily routine, which should take you no more than ten minutes in the morning and ten in the evening, and you will experience a significant increase in your quality of life.
Stress is an unwelcome intruder in your mind, heart, and soul. Banish it, fight it with a fiery passion, and ultimately, accept it as an inevitable part of life. Come to understand how stress affects your reality, and use its power to fill your life with positivity, learn to control it, and you will nurture a prosperous and rewarding future imbued with health and happiness.