A little stress can be a good thing — at least in some ways. “Stress is an integral part of our physical system,” says Eli Bay, stress expert and founder of The Relaxation Response Institute. “It’s absolutely necessary. It’s the mechanism that lets us adapt to our daily challenges.”
Unfortunately, with the good comes the bad and the need to find balance.
The good stress
“Our stress reaction is such an important part of us that humans would never had made it past our cave dwelling stage without it,” explains Eli Bay. “Stress is our fight or flight response, which is an essential element in our survival mechanism.”
Our stress reaction is what gives us a useful rush of energy in an emergency; for instance, when you react suddenly to avoid a car mishap.
But there’s also another kind of good stress — the type that gets you charged for productivity. These activities or events can be anything from picking out a special birthday present to booking a vacation before a price-hike deadline or giving a presentation at work.
So the rush of stress you feel in these, and many other situations is fine, to a point.
“A burst of stress is okay,” says Eli. “You need it actually. When the event or activity is over, your stress should return to the lower level that is the norm for us.”
The bad stress
In most cases, once the event has passed or been dealt with, your body recognizes that the burst of higher-level stress is no longer needed. But what happens if you get stuck at the higher level and stay stuck there?
“That could ultimately have an adverse affect on your physical, mental and emotional well-being,” says Eli. “As a matter of fact, if gone unchecked, even your ‘normal’ low-level stress state can affect your health to some degree.”
And, in some cases, our attempts to de-stress can actually cause more of it. For example, saying yes rather than deal with the guilt of saying no.
The balancing act
Since we’re unable to banish stress from our lives completely, it’s important to keep balance in mind and learn how to handle stress at any level. “It’s easy to get swept into a never-ending cycle of stress-fuelled days,” explains Eli. “That’s why it’s necessary to make a conscious effort to deal with your stress.”
To help relieve the negative effects of stress, Eli Bay suggests that your start with the following exercises: