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While women do face high amounts of stress because of balancing work and home, multi-tasking and unrealistic expectations (from self and others), much of what we know about stress is a myth!
Think stress is a big villain in your life? It may not always as bad as we make it out to be. There is a lot of false information about stress that we accept as common wisdom. In this article, we debunk some of the common myths about stress.
Stress routinely gets such a bad rap that as a society we have become neurotic and paranoid about every little thing that upsets us. Stress is made out to be something that can even kill us.
However, an analysis of 300 studies about the relationship between stress and the human immune system found no significant evidence to suggest that stress makes normally healthy people susceptible to illness. The immune system can take a beating and still function, so it is unnecessary to worry about intermittent stress that is part of life.
But if you are chronically stressed, or you have low immunity to start with, you need to be careful to not aggravate stress.
Stress is a natural response to tragic events such as death, divorce, job loss, accidents, fatal illnesses, etc. But it is not just tragedies that cause stress; positive events can also trigger it on occasion. Anything that upsets your normal routine and elicits strong emotions can lead to stress.
For women, some common stressors could include when you get married, have a baby, start a new job, move someplace new, or start college – your body goes through the same stress response. Even children respond with stress to some positive events such as getting a new pet, birthday parties, and the birth of siblings.
It is not the event itself that causes stress, but rather your emotional response to the event.
If you are a naturally anxious person, you may try to control everything that happens in your life in order to avoid stress; but the truth is that no matter how much you try, certain situations are still out of your control. For example, you cannot control the behaviour of other people, natural disasters, traffic jams, or other similar situations that are simply out of your hands. The only thing that you can control is your response to these events.
Remember the serenity prayer, “God grant in the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.”
A study on the influence of neuroticism, extraversion, and openness on stress responses found that the more open you are to novel experiences, the less likely you are to respond with stress to a new situation.
Even if you are neurotic or introverted, a positive stress response is a habit that anyone can cultivate with adequate practice.
Downing a drink or two may lead to temporarily positive feelings because alcohol reduces the body’s normal physiological stress response. But long term heavy drinking can actually cause a lot of damage and even aggravate stress.
Stress and alcohol has a bi-directional relationship. Stress influences the motivation to consume alcohol, and alcohol influences your stress response. The stress-alcohol interaction also varies among individual drinkers.
Stress can reduce the pleasant effects of alcohol or increase the desire to drink more. In the real world, too much drinking leads to a host of issues that can only aggravate stress. Consuming alcohol in moderation is not harmful. But don’t drink to de-stress because it doesn’t happen like that.
Despite what it appears to be, it is not compulsory that you must feel stressed in response to a stressful event. Difficult situations will happen and you cannot always control them; that’s life. But while you do not have the power to prevent stressful situations from happening, you can always control how you react to it.
Plan your life in such a way that stress does not overwhelm you. Set your priorities right and identify the major stressors in your life. Tackles simple problems first and then move on to more complex ones.
Not all problems deserve the same amount of your attention. Learn to ignore what doesn’t matter and practice deliberately to change the way you respond to life situations. The practice of mindfulness is an excellent way to reduce stress reactions, and decrease the levels of cortisol aka the stress hormone.
Stress is definitely a part of modern life, but you do not have to be paranoid about it. Being aware of what stress truly is will help you manage it in a better way.
pic credit: topgold (Used under a Creative Commons license)
Nisha Salim is a self-employed writer and a social media junkie.
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