What is the Answer to Stress?

What is the Answer to Stress?

Stress is an interesting thing. I’d argue that it is impossible to live a life entirely without stress as stress is often a sign that we care about something (like fear can be, which we mentioned in this recent article.  And in fact, in these cases, a little bit of stress can be good for us. It can give us a burst of energy to meet our goals in a focused way.  So right before an exam, or a job interview or a big project deadline, a little bit of stress is actually really going to help us to get to where we want to go.

But how much is too much?  And how do we know when the amount of stress we are experiencing is an unhelpful amount rather than a helpful one?

The answer may be in our bodies as well as in our minds.  I think we all know what emotional stress feels like on the inside – overwhelming thoughts, inability to turn off, irritability etc – but as stress is a chemical reaction in the body, prolonged stress can genuinely have a physical impact.

Science has shown that stress can create or exacerbate certain kinds of issues in the body including:

  • Depression
  • Pain (anywhere in the body – but often the head, neck, back and so on)
  • Sleep issues
  • Digestive issues (sometimes paired with weight loss or gain)
  • Skin conditions
  • Heart conditions
  • Reproductive issues
  • Cold and flu
  • Diarrhea and nausea

Stress can also impact memory as well as our clarity of thinking, and cause us to behave in ways outside of the usual, such as those outlined in this recent article.

So what is the answer to stress?  Well the more we know about ourselves, the more we can be on top of this.

One of the great stand-outs of 2020 to me has been the recognition that we all need to take a bit of responsibility for our own wellbeing – meaning that, to thrive we have to know ourselves.  What stresses you out? How do you experience stress physically, emotionally and mentally?  What are your de-stressors that you can rely on to maintain your stress levels?  These are all very important things to know, and the next time you experience a feeling or sensation you define as stress, you could look at it as a valuable learning opportunity.

For this reason, a key Wellbeing Theme for next year across senior schools will be SELF-MONITORING – helping young people to develop strategies to recognize their own warning signs in terms of their wellbeing, and assist them to find de-stressors through the five daily habits and more.

This could be something we all undertake as a whole community – parents, teachers and other school staff as well.  Let’s learn about ourselves and then model for each other the value of self-monitoring for long-term wellbeing enhancement.

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