Stress Management: Is your stress helping you or hurting you?

Updated: Oct 21, 2021

Not all stress is bad.

Have you ever felt the type of stress that actually energizes you? For example, you’re on a tight deadline on an assignment, and you’re feeling the pressure to complete it, and complete it well? You type away at your laptop, researching your topic as you go along, and somehow you’re able to complete it, proofread your assignment and submit it all before the clock runs out?

You were stressed - but in a good way. Your stress brought out the best in you - you were focused, you were energized and you rose to the occasion. And after it was all done, you felt tired but also deeply satisfied.

Is your stress helping you or hurting you?

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This stress is called eustress, and it is a type of stress that we all experience. It is also a type of stress that is beneficial as it helps us be alert during dangerous situations, and also gives us that rush of adrenalin when we experience something new and exciting.

Then, there is distress.

Generally, distress occurs when we experience stress for an extended period of time. For example, people in an abusive relationship or those in an unhealthy work environment could find themselves in a state of distress.

Signs of distress may include anxiety, lack of motivation, substance abuse as well as physical changes such as migraines and muscle tension.

Signs of Stress

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If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms, you are likely in a state of distress and you should take steps to manage your stress.

4As of Stress Management

If you’re feeling distressed, there are some ways that you can cope. They’re referred to as the 4 As.

Avoid - The first, and perhaps most obvious, strategy is to avoid stress. This is easier said than done, but try to say no to situations or events that could cause you anxiety. Or avoid conversational topics that could trigger heated and emotional discussions.

Alter - Not all stressful situations can be avoided. In this scenario, perhaps we can consider altering, or changing, our response towards stressors. For example, we could organise our schedules better to ensure a healthy work-life balance and avoid piles of work that overwhelm us.

Adapt - We can also adapt ourselves to situations and reframe them in a more positive light. Instead of looking at a situation as being “problematic”, see it as a challenge that could help us grow and mature.

Accept - Finally, acceptance of things we can’t change will also allow us to go with the flow. There are some things that are simply beyond our control - politics, war, climate change. So rather than focus on what we cannot change, perhaps it is better to focus on what we can and play our small part in making our world a better place.

Read other Stress & Mental Health Related Resources:

If you’d like to learn more about stress and how to cope with it, check out our Lesson Pack on Coping With Stress. You can also chat with one of our ThoughtFull Professionals to get some help in coming up with a realistic plan.

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