How Safe are You from the Ravages of Stress?
Eustress, the good stress that help
s a sprinter leap off the running block or a singer wow an audience, is only temporary. Athletes, entertainers, and other more ordinary individuals who are peak performers in their respective field can only excel for brief spurts of time.
Initially, when you put in extra effort, you will succeed, moving ahead at a rapid rate, but this success is only temporary. It’s not sustainable because your body and mind are not designed to habituate to stress. Too much cortisol, the stress hormone, running through the body day in and day out causes fatigue, mental confusion, and behavioral aberrations.
Distress has to be taken seriously. Yes, you can recover your energy by taking an energy drink loaded with B6 and B12, guard against excessive sweating with a clinical-strength antiperspirant during a keynote presentation, and use affirmations to keep on keeping on, but these solutions are for the symptoms of stress, not the stress itself.
Let’s take a closer look at the nature of stress and how to succeed in life without burning yourself out.
What Is Stress?
We’ve briefly touched on eustress and distress, but, of course, stress is a far more complex response to life. It’s a set of reactions to a change in life, a mix of cognitive, emotional, and physiological responses to perceived or actual events.
In itself, stress isn’t necessarily good or bad, but while it works well when we need to rise to an occasion, in the long run, it causes us to become overwhelmed. If we’re stressed for too long, we experience a condition commonly called “burnout.”
Many things can cause us to feel stressed–even highly positive ones. For instance, we can feel stressed when we start a new job, when we move to a new home, and when we get into a new relationship because these are life-changing events. And, of course, we also feel stressed when we experience major losses and setback of any kind.
How to Succeed in Life Without Burning Yourself Out
If you feel that the demands of modern life are a little too much for you and long for a simpler life, you’re not alone. Many people feel that way and there is almost a wishful longing for earlier, simpler times. But this hankering for the good old days is more of a fantasy than anything else. In truth, civilized life has always been stressful.
Anxiety, depression, sleep disturbance, memory lapses, and various aches—all symptoms of stress—existed long before the advent of the industrial age or our technologically-connected era. Instead of hoping for life to get easier, it makes more sense to get better at managing it.
Here are three suggestions to help you flourish in life:
Move out of a bad situation
The most stressful things in life are those that impact you negatively. If you’re in a job you hate or in a miserable relationship, you need to make new choices. No amount of positive thinking and stress management techniques can help you unless you address the underlying cause of your distress.
Avoid taking on too much
Another reason you might often feel stressed is that you’re overwhelmed with too many responsibilities. It doesn’t even matter if you’re doing all the right things, doing things that are positive, creative, and rich in meaning. You still need to strike a balance between rest and activity to avoid overstimulating and exhausting yourself.
Do relaxing, fun things.
Although ambition is a wonderful thing, you also need balance. If, for instance, you’re an entrepreneur, you need to take time out to do things that have nothing to do with building your business; or if you’re a student, you need to do things that have nothing to do with academia. Make time to do things that refresh your mind and spirit.
In conclusion, the absolute worst way to win in life is to think that stress is your friend. If you do assume that stress is a normal and natural aspect of success, then you’ll push yourself too much, work long hours, try too hard, sleep too little, and quickly wear yourself out. In short, any initial burst of eustress will turn into long-term distress.