The Stress Equation: The Positives & Negatives

  • Time to read: 6 min.

Stress is an everyday occurrence. Each act that we go through during the day can result in a buildup of stress chemicals within the body leading to the stress equation: the positive and negatives which can change our thought and behavior patterns. This affects us not only mentally, but also physically with symptoms of nausea, shaking or lightheartedness as these chemicals rush through our body.

The Stress Equation

Not all stress is seen as bad, there is also positive stress which can lead to great changes in our lives and is required to give us that nudge of courage. Often when we are working towards a great achievement or goal in our lives, we mistake the excitement that we feel for anxiety or distress. Examples of positive stress can be you getting married, landing a new job or having a child; this stress focuses our energy and prepares us for new changes coming our way.

Negative stress, however, is not as beneficial to our mind or body. This distress comes from a variety of outputs; finances, mental illness or working schedules are just a few examples. The reactions that arise from this do not help us to achieve goals but can often deter us from even trying something new. As we said before, stress is an everyday occurrence. There is no getting away from it, so we must find healthy and adaptive ways to cope while living with it which keeps us engaged and positive in our mindset.

Do We Need Stress to Function?

As we looked at earlier, stress is not always seen as a bad thing. Stress can be a motivator and a needed reason for change. Each of us knows at least one person, if it’s not ourselves, who works well under pressure and does so as it is what makes life changes so exciting.

As we are so used to feeling distressed, we find it hard to figure out if what we are going through is a positive or negative experience. At times we need a moment to step back and fully assess the situation, look at our own feelings and decide if they are true or not.

The moment we step outside our comfort zone is the moment that we are living to our full potential, seizing each moment with the promise of not taking a single one for granted.

Unlike negative stress, these moments leave us feeling confident, motivated and inspired. When we are thinking this way we are putting every ounce of ourselves into our relationships, our goals and ultimately our lives.

On the other hand experiencing distress can lead to thoughts of unworthiness, being or feeling unfulfilled, lethargy and depression, which holds us back from achieving what we set out to do.

Suffering from low self-esteem can give pause to a number of positive experiences, most of the time being the fear of rejection or failure. Over time these moments where we say ‘no’ can stack up and begin to weigh us down. We may spend time looking back on opportunities that passed us by or even observing those in front of us right now. Sometimes a wedding, new job or baby does not bring us instant happiness but makes us feel fear or pressure.

Most of us have heard of the fight, flight or freeze notion where stress hormones send signals to our brain and we have to decide whether to hide, not move at all or attack. Physically our hearts beat faster, our blood pressure rises and we prepare to protect ourselves.

Although this is helpful in real life combat situations, in normal everyday life this only brings tension to our bodies and minds. The constant feeling of being on edge can lead to restlessness, stomach issues and sexual dysfunction. With that in mind, it is easy to see why chronic stress encompasses most areas of daily functioning and lessens our ability to keep up with a normal routine.

Take Jenny for example, she works in a high stress environment and is currently going through a nasty divorce. Each day she wakes up fearing that her lack of sleep may lead to her making a mistake that will eventually lead to her being fired and ultimately threatening her financial stability. At the end of a long day, she comes home to yet another letter regarding her divorce. Her thoughts take her back to happier days where she spent many evenings with her friends and families instead of being stuck in the office trying to make ends meet.

Because of the stress caused through these recent situations Jenny is experiencing a lack of sleep, appetite and motivation. All of these things combined have brought her inner turmoil which begins to affect her relationships. When stress develops and engulfs our lives, we begin to lose sight of what and who is around us. Our negative feelings become so overwhelming that we forget about the supportive relationships that we have. We begin to shut down, push out and to deny any help from people we were once close to.

Healing From Stress

Let’s talk about beginning to heal from stress and what we can do as simple actions throughout the day to improve overall well-being.

Look at your routine.   Whether it is late nights on the sofa or late nights in the office, not getting enough sleep is just one way to disrupt our mental health. Delegate household chores and tasks; it’s ok to ask partners or family members to pick up a few extra things while you work out what is going on in your mind. Prioritize what must be done against what can be done at a later date. Right now the goal is to find a way to take things off your shoulders, even if it means putting them to the back burner for just a little longer.

Manage your time.   Learning to time manage effectively will ease the pressure you feel about not having enough time for getting things done. Not only this, but the pride you’ll feel once you complete a task that felt far from your reach will only further your motivation to get better. Another advantage is that, by managing your time, you are not allowing yourself to remain in the routine that stress has caught you in. This is your time to move forward and to improve yourself to return to where you were not so long ago.

Maintain regular contact with supportive friends and family.   Although at times this can feel really exhausting and just the mere thought of socializing being the last thing that you would like to do, it’s crucial to let your support network know what is going on in your life. A simple text even to let them know that currently you aren’t reachable is enough to keep you on the radar. Treat yourself as if you would treat a friend, would you not text them or email them for three weeks?

Journal Writing.    Many people feel unable to express just quite how they feel and so they turn to journals as a way to release their stress. If you already journal, how about changing up your routine by writing about gratitude? Each morning set aside 10 or 15 minutes to think and meditate on three positive things in your life you are grateful for. This can be as simple as waking up to see another sunrise or the fact you woke up next to the love of your life. Anything that forces you to consider that there are glittering moments in between the more difficult parts of life will benefit you immensely. See our guide on the benefits of journaling.

Leisure and movement.    Finally, consider adjusting your schedule to allow for leisure pursuits and physical movement even if it’s a walk in the park. When we spend time letting our minds wind themselves into a muddle, the best action we can take is to get a new perspective. Alternatively, most people find yoga or meditation to be a very simple and beneficial activity for centering themselves and letting steam off. Allowing oneself to focus on the breath and practicing how to observe and release thoughts is one of the most recommended methods of overcoming daily stress. Not only is this great for giving yourself time each day, but it can be used to improve our quality of life when dealing with chronic stressors. It takes practice and experimentation to find what works for you, so don’t feel defeated if something does not feel as good for you as it does for other people.

Final Thoughts

Stress is something we deal with on a daily basis, whether it is good or bad.  It is an equation we each need to find harmony with. With that in mind, we owe it to ourselves to find a healthy outlet in which to give ourselves the best chance to thrive.

Woman Laying on Yoga Mat

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