Good vs. Bad Stress
The term “stress” immediately gives rise to negative connotations. We tend to think stress is bad. However, stress can be good. Stress can be a motivator. It challenges us to excel and succeed. If we were never challenged life would be boring. We would become complacent. In order to grow and develop, we need a certain amount of pressure. We need the opportunity to push up against something in order to reach new heights. Sometimes that pressure comes from our internal strivings, while other times its source is external. But whatever its source, pressure is necessary for our growth and development.
Our response to stress is instinctive, and it kicks in when we are threatened. This is called the fight/ flight instinct. It lets us know when we are in danger and puts us on guard so that we can protect ourselves either by fighting the threat or by fleeing from the threat.
Therefore, in certain situations stress can considered normal and healthy. However, there is a very thin line between healthy and unhealthy stress. Stress is good for you when it is propelling you forward, encouraging you to push through perceived barriers to your own success. Stress only becomes unhealthy when there is too much repeated or prolonged stress or when the output required exceeds our current resources. This can tip the very fine balance that exists and create a negative downward spiral.
Our systems need to be kept in balance, in a state of homeostasis. Therefore, when we are being pushed to further ourselves we need to balance that with the appropriate care and nurturance. We need to keep ourselves healthy so our bodies and minds have enough energy and resources to cope with the added output needed during times of stress.
Just like a car needs petrol and servicing, if you continue to push yourself to the limits and do not replenish yourself, your body takes strain and eventually seizes up.
So, I see this as a scale that needs to be kept in balance in order to stay healthy and function optimally. If you increase your stress levels you need to balance that situation with more self-care. The more stress or pressure you add, the more time and focus you need to give to your well-being. If you allow your stress levels to mount without balancing them with the appropriate self-care, the scales will tip totally out of balance. You will see this reflected in your life as you start to feel out of sorts, out of equilibrium, and unable to cope. Your life will spin out of control. Once this happens, you may have very little inner resources and energy left with which to rectify the balance. You may find yourself getting physically ill or facing a major trauma like the break up of your marriage.
Therefore, it is important to manage your stress levels carefully and to become aware of how much stress is good for you and what you need to do to keep yourself in equilibrium. You need to start recognizing the signs telling you your stress levels are becoming too high.