We feel stressed because our lives are perpetually full of nasty plot twists and because sometimes, it is simply part of the package when you’ve got yourself a successful career.
We’ve all shared these amazing-sounding notions about stress. But seriously guys, you’ve got it all wrong.
It is because we perpetuate such weird theories about stress that our brain starts breaking a sweat at the drop of a hat, putting our mental health at so much risk. It is, therefore, time to put these alluring misconceptions to rest once and for all. To contribute to the cause, here’s a roundup of 5 of the most popular stress myths we’ve heard of.
1. Myth: Stress Comes From Situations
The truth: Stress comes from the thoughts we have about our situations.
Basically, we’re all over-thinkers by birth. This is a trait we’ve inherited from our neanderthal ancestors, whose brains were designed to focus on survival to promote the longevity of the human race. So naturally, identifying possible signs of risks and dangers and remembering these became an integral part of this survival strategy.1 So over the years, our brain has simply evolved to becoming smarter at hunting out bad news and storing it in our long-term memory.
To make matters worse, negative emotions usually require a lot more thinking. We end up spending hours ruminating over them till they get exaggerated by a ginormous amount. This over-analyzed version gets stored in our brain when in reality the problem is probably just minuscule.
It is, therefore, necessary to start training your brain into thinking positively. This will stop your over-thinking negative brain dead in its tracks and help you take better stock of any kind of situation you’re in.
2. Myth: Stress Is Only Caused By Negative Events
The truth: Stress is caused by how you feel about any event.
Planning your wedding day, which usually counts as one of the happiest moments in most people’s lives can be just as stressful as fighting a financial crisis.
Remember what we told you about the brain? It has trained itself to think negatively in order to stay prepared for the worst outcome possible, which, in turn, influences your feelings. This happens regardless of whether the event is a happy one, or sad. So if you feel like you have your back against a wall, know that it’s not because of the situation you’re in but because you’re letting your brain tell you that something bad may happen.
The solution? Once again, we repeat ourselves – train your brain to think positive thoughts about any given situation and you’ll automatically find yourself feeling a lot less flustered.
3. Myth: You Can’t Help Feeling Stressed
The truth: No. You totally can and you totally should!
You now know that stress is only a natural inbuilt response that your brain, and consequently, your body has developed over time. Make no mistake, however, in thinking that there’s nothing you can do about it.
If you continue to ignore your stress-attacks, your mind will continue to get worked up over multiple “what if” scenarios. And even though the only thing stressing you out is your mind, your body will still get into “fight” mode as if it’s a serious matter of survival. In reality, there is no invader to fight – and you only end up hurting yourself. So not only can the stress from your unnecessary panic attacks hurt you but can also kill you.2 3
Just as you would make use of parenting strategies to teach your child how to share, you have to actively practice mind-management strategies to keep your thoughts from spiraling out of control. Doing this would not only be a giant improvement in terms of both your mental and physical health.
4. Myth: Exercising Can Help Solve Stress
The truth: Exercising can only alleviate your symptoms of stress.
Stress-management strategies like exercising don’t target the core problem – your thoughts about what’s going on in your life. So while exercising may help relieve the effects of stress, it doesn’t solve the cause, as a result of which the stress keeps returning to haunt you time and time again.
A more effective strategy would be teaching yourself to focus on the good things that are happening in your life, even if these are tiny moments of joy that otherwise seem inconsequential. One great way to do this is by maintaining a gratitude journal.
You should also teach yourself to recognize your stress-trigger points and train yourself to think and react differently in challenging situations so that you’re no longer vulnerable to feeling stressed and anxious.
5. Myth: No Symptoms? You’re Not Stressed!
The truth: You’re probably not aware of how your body reacts to stress.
There are about 50 “common” ways in which stress affects a person.4 The main reason for this is that stress affects each individual differently since it has so much to do with a person’s thoughts. So just because you’re not experiencing the so-called “typical” stress symptoms, it doesn’t mean you’re not stressed. Rather, you’re probably not aware of how your body reacts to stress.
If you’re facing mysterious, frequent bouts of allergy attacks or a sudden increase or decrease in your appetite – chances are stress is the cause.
|↑1||Bijlsma, R., and Volker Loeschcke. “Environmental stress, adaptation and evolution: an overview.” Journal of evolutionary biology 18, no. 4 (2005): 744-749.|
|↑2||Slavich, George M., and Michael R. Irwin. “From stress to inflammation and major depressive disorder: A social signal transduction theory of depression.” Psychological bulletin 140, no. 3 (2014): 774.|
|↑3||Keller, Abiola, Kristin Litzelman, Lauren E. Wisk, Torsheika Maddox, Erika Rose Cheng, Paul D. Creswell, and Whitney P. Witt. “Does the perception that stress affects health matter? The association with health and mortality.” Health Psychology 31, no. 5 (2012): 677.|
|↑4||Stress Effects. American Institute of Stress.|