Good Stress vs. Bad Stress
There is good stress and there is bad stress and both usually originate with a strong emotion. I enjoy watching funny videos especially the ones of people getting scared. Their reaction is hilarious. Some of their facial expressions are priceless. Most of the time being scared causes a person to run. Other times it initiates an action response. You may have heard it called, “Fight or Flight.” Our bodies are magnificently wired to deal with surging emotions such as fear. Our brains release Epinephrine which we call adrenaline. This causes our heart rate and breathing to increase and our muscles to tense up. The brain also releases Cortisol which causes our body to release glucose so we can have the appropriate energy. Our bodies are amazing! Once we respond with fight or flight, our adrenaline rush will end and our Cortisol levels will return to normal. Unless.
What if we don’t respond? What if we stuff our emotions? This is bad stress or chronic stress. When we stay in a state of stress, the elevated Cortisol levels in our mind and bodies can cause serious damage. We may have issues with learning and memory, a lower immune system, and an increase in weight gain, blood pressure, cholesterol and heart disease. We may also be at risk for depression, mental illness and premature death. Chronic stress is a serious problem in America and some call it public enemy number one.
Imagine your brain is like a squirt gun. The water inside the gun is Cortisol. Sometimes you have no control over who pulls the trigger. Sometimes life just gets scary and emotions surge. One time my Mother and Step-Father were driving my two kids. On the way to their destination my Step-Father turned left in front of another car and was trapped in front of oncoming traffic. My Mom got so scared that she started yelling at him with some four letter words. The reason why this is actually funny is that my Mother is a very godly woman. My kids never heard their sweet, innocent Grandma drop an f-bomb. Well, to this day they don’t let her live it down. We all get a good laugh reminding her of her choice in words. This story is a perfect example that someone or something else can pull the trigger on your squirt gun whether you like it or not. I just hope you don’t follow my Mother’s example.
Other times you repeatedly pull the trigger on your own when you don’t process your emotions. Rather, you stuff your emotions and the Cortisol wreaks havoc on your mind and body. How heavy is a backpack with one book in it? Not very heavy you might say. Try wearing that backpack for 24 hours straight. Try wearing it for a week or a month straight. I bet that it will get really heavy. That is the reality of chronic stress.
So, how do you deal with stress the right way? The answer is to utilize it. You can’t eliminate it because you can’t control the circumstances of life. However, you can utilize your stress and that begins with having a positive mindset. You have to think that a stressful situation will have a positive ending. You have to believe that it will make you stronger. There is a teaching in the Bible that says, “Suffering (Stress) produces perseverance, perseverance produces character and character produces hope” (Romans 5:3-4). If you believe this, then you can actually rejoice when you experience stress. You know that in the end you will be stronger. You may have heard this expression, “What doesn’t kill you, only makes you stronger.” Sounds a lot like the Bible, doesn’t it. I think a lot of our sayings come from this treasure trove. Both of these sayings support the first and most important key to utilizing your stress which is to think positive. Some recent studies are even showing that a positive mindset about stress will help you live longer.
Rest and Recovery
Did you know that some people pay to put their body into stressful situations? It’s totally true. One statistic I read stated that Americans spend 19 billion dollars a year to stress themselves out. What am I talking about? I am talking about fitness memberships. I am one of those loony toons. I spend $20 a month to stress out my muscles. Literally, that is what happens when you lift weights. You are stressing and tearing your muscles down. Why? Because with proper recovery they will grow back stronger. I never lift the same muscle group two days in a row. I always let it rest. That is an essential to utilizing your stress. You must have proper rest and recovery.
- Physical activity like exercise lets out aggression and reduces cortisol.
Go for a walk, do yard work or enjoy a hobby. You are only workout away from a great mood.
- Mindful meditation like Christian yoga reduces anxiety and lowers cortisol. Reading and praying work too.
- Laughter is the best medicine they say and it turns out that it also reduces Cortisol.
- Music can change your mood for the better.
- Connecting with others will release Oxytocin which is known as the cuddle hormone. It also reduces Cortisol.
I hope that you are encouraged to deal with your stress in some new ways. Every person handles stress differently. The most important thing to remember is that you have a choice when it comes to your mindset. Think positive about your stress. Utilize it to make you stronger. It will produce perseverance which results in character. Never give up hope. Rest and Recover. Tomorrow is a new day. Stay positive.
I hope this helps you and please add your comments below.