Did you know that stress can be good for you? It’s true! There are two different types of stress. The negative kind is the stress we are most familiar with—and what most people mean when they say “I’m so stressed out right now.” Negative stress, if not managed correctly, can have a host of effects on your health—including contributing to heart disease, elevated blood glucose levels (especially if you have diabetes), increased symptoms of respiratory disease, and gastrointestinal problems.
The positive kind of stress is called eustress. Eustress helps to motivate us to do different things—especially ones that may be unappealing in themselves. A deadline at work, for example, could cause both types of stress: for some who are motivated by deadlines, eustress can be a positive helper to getting their work done on time. For example, if you realize your deadline is sooner than you think, this may motivate you to get your work done—with no ill effects. Similarly, a little friendly competition may be just the hint of pressure you need to get to work tackling something you’ve been putting off. Eustress motivates you to get things done, with an external or internal motivator that won’t hurt you in the long run—like distress can. Both types of stress, though, can be useful—stress in general helps us with motivation, as well as adaptation and reaction to our circumstances .
Most of us are at least slightly familiar with the effects that negative stress can have on our lives: in addition to what I mentioned above, stress can cause other physiological (in the body) reactions short-term including sweating, increased heart rate, headaches, difficulty sleeping and irritability—putting increased stress on relationships, to add to the picture .
Stress happens—it’s a part of life. Now that you know how to identify stress, here are some ways to manage it:
- Talk about it! Whether with a therapist or trusted friend or family member, talking about your stress can help you figure out what’s causing it, and find solutions.
- Write it down! To-do lists, journaling, and staying organized can help you feel less stressed, gain a better sense of what you’re stressed about, and help you prevent stress in the future.
- Find a way to relax! Whether it’s meditation, playing or listening to music, taking a hot shower or bath, or doing something creative, find a way to relax especially when you’re stressed—but take time for self-care every day, too!
- Learn about stress! It’s hard to tackle something you don’t know a lot about. Take some time to do a little reading on stress, how to avoid it, and how it may make your chronic disease worse.
- Avoid it! Once you figure out what’s causing your stress, find ways to alleviate it. I don’t mean quitting your job (although, if work is that bad all the time, you may want to consider getting back on the job hunt!), however, there are always tactics we can use to problem-solve and manage our everyday stressful tasks better. Breaking down tasks or planning out a timeframe for how to accomplish things will help you manage stressful things in your life better.
What do you do to manage stress? Do you find stress exacerbates your chronic condition? Let us know in the comments—and, know you can alleviate a bit of stress by wearing a medical ID bracelet from My Identity Doctor to communicate your needs if you can’t. Stress happens to everyone… but, by reading this post during Stress Awareness Month, you’ve already taken a great step to reducing stress in your life!