Why feeling stressed isn’t necessarily a bad thing

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Many people would associate the word “stress” with negative situations, but the science of emotion argues that stress isn’t always a bad thing. 

There are two types of stress that affect your body:
  • Eustress – This is positive stress, such as receiving a promotion or raise at work, starting a new job, marriage, buying a home, having a child, etc… It can help you feel motivated, focus your energy, cope, and improve performance.
  • Distress – This is negative stress, such as filing for divorce, conflict in interpersonal relationships, bankruptcy/money problems, children’s problems at school, etc… It can create anxiety or concern, feels unpleasant, decreases performance, and may lead to mental and physical health problems. 

Stress is a normal, adaptive coping response that evolved over hundreds of millions of years to protect our ancestors from predators and other threats. In today’s world, although you aren’t likely to face the threat of being eaten, you likely experience mild-to-moderate stress constantly (such as multitasking, being overworked, meeting deadlines, paying bills, etc.). When you’re feeling stressed there are things you can do to help cope with the stress in a healthy, positive way. 

Take a quick walk
Walking improves circulation, keeps your joints lubricated, builds stamina, and decreases stress.

Extend your exhale
Exhaling activates the parasympathetic part of your nervous system (the part that helps relax you). Try to take three or more breaths where your exhale is twice as long as your inhale.

Tune into your body
Engage your senses, particularly touch and smell. Try a gentle massage or some aromatherapy work.

Practice gratitude
Take a movement to notice the things around you that you are grateful for. When you feel grateful for something or someone, your brain chemistry shifts and instead of breathing rapidly, you take in more air, and your body relaxes.

Buy a potted plant
Simply having plants in your workplace or home may lower stress and help you feel more relaxed.

Watch something funny
Laughter increases endorphins, soothes tension, and can help cool your stress.
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