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GOOD STRESS VS. BAD STRESS . . . AND HOW TO TELL THE DIFFERENCE

Stress is part of every human being’s life, especially among those who lead. Problem is, we can’t lump all of our stress into the category of being harmful. Some types of stress actually help us. Other types hurt us. Today, Jaime Hlavin unpacks the subject of stress, and gives us a clearer grasp of both the helpful and unhelpful types . . . and what we can do about the stress that causes harm. Enjoy! ~ John

Stress . . .

It’s a word that is most likely a regular part of our vocabularies.

“I’m so stressed out!”

“That situation was extremely stressful.”

“Don’t put that kind of stress on me!”

We’re all familiar with these statements—probably more familiar than we’d actually like to be. For the most part, the word stress holds negative connotations and we don’t have anything good to say about it at all. As one who is coming off of a fairly stressful few days, I’m waving my handkerchief and testifying loudly to this.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, stress is the body and brain’s way of dealing with any change that requires an adjustment or response.  And stress can actually be positive or negative.

We probably don’t associate much good with the concept of stress. But positive stressors (called eustress) may include things like a new job, an upcoming marriage, or the arrival of a baby. It’s also very useful because positive stressors motivate us to be accountable to the people and things we’ve committed to (i.e. that new job, spouse, or child).

Stress becomes bad when it’s chronic. This occurs when a major stressor or stressors continue for long periods of time—such as health problems, difficulty and pressure in the workplace, or marital strife. This type of stress, known as “distress,” is strenuous on both the body and brain and can lead to physical problems as well as depression and/or anxiety.

Sometimes it’s difficult to determine the difference between the two because, according to the American Institute of Stress, good stress can become bad and bad stress can become good. Just thinking about that concept feels stressful.

How can we tell when we need to take a step back and deal with stressors in our lives? Stress symptoms can be unique to individuals, but the most obvious sign is a feeling of overwhelmed pressure. Other symptoms can include:

  • Physical complaints such as stomachaches/digestive issues, headaches, chest pains, trouble catching your breath, etc.
  • Problems getting along with people.
  • Changes in emotional behavior (short temper, unexplained anger, crying for no identifiable reason).
  • Disrupted sleep patterns.
  • Impatience.

So, perhaps you’ve identified that you may be experiencing a little stress right now and don’t want it to negatively affect those you may lead, love, and interact with on a regular basis. Here are some ways to handle it:

Take it to the Lord

The scripture instructs us in 1 Peter, to “cast all our cares” on Jesus because He loves us. He doesn’t want us to shoulder our stress alone.

Stay physically healthy

Regular exercise and a healthy diet are proven to help keep us on track emotionally when the stressors of life mount.

Set goals and priorities

When operating under stress, it’s easy to feel like everything is caving in. Take a step back and identify what really needs attention and in what order.

Engage in a relaxing activity

This may seem counterintuitive when there is so much to do, but taking a moment to read a chapter in a good book or take a walk around the block on a beautiful sunny day can do wonders for settling our minds and therefore add a little clarity.

Stay connected

Don’t shut people out. Ask for help. Delegate. Talk about what is causing you to feel stress.

Attempt to shift your perception

Again the American Institute of Stress encourages one to take some time to focus on the resources you have to get the job done and remind yourself of your strengths. You can also attempt to find the potential benefits of the situation you’re in and remain positive.

While it’s nearly impossible to avoid stress in our daily lives, we can do our best to identify good vs. bad stress, and respond in ways that help us get and stay healthy emotionally.

I’m rooting and praying for you! ~ Jaime

John Opalewski

Author John Opalewski

John Opalewski is a graduate of Oral Roberts University. He served as a pastor for fifteen years. He has worked in the business world for nearly two decades, serving in multiple leadership roles. John's experience as a leader in both the church and business arenas has made him a sought-after international speaker, coach and mentor.

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