Reduce Stress of the Unhealthy Type: What’s the Difference?

The phrase “healthy stress” doesn’t seem to make sense does it?

The word stress generally has unhealthy connotations but in some circumstances it can be healthy.

Stress is inescapable. We all feel stress at different times in our life. We are physically able to handle certain types and amounts of stress and sometimes even benefit from it. The difficulties come when we are unable to handle it.

What is the difference between healthy and unhealthy stress?

Here are some points to consider in terms of healthy and unhealthy stress.

Healthy Stress – a Motivator

Without pressure we wouldn’t get very much done! Stress, of sorts, is what motivates us to earn money, parent our children, build relationships, play sports. If there wasn’t an element of healthy stress involved in all those areas we wouldn’t be anywhere near as as successful at those things as we are!

It’s when the stress tips over into too much stress that it becomes unhealthy and causes us problems.

Healthy Stress – Reaction Time

Have you had that situation when driving, or doing something else that could be dangerous when not done properly, where something you’re not expecting happens; you get a burst of adrenaline and you are able to avert whatever danger you found yourself in?

Your stress response is partially responsible for your quick action, as you can usually tell by how you feel immediately after that stressful situation has happened! Stress can motivate us into taking quick, sometimes life saving, action.

And you may have heard of those scenarios where a Mother has managed to lift a car off her toddler and other such miraculous feats that can only be put down to a massive surge of adrenaline and strength borne out of deep love and caring for the child.

Healthy Stress – Release of Endorphins

Endorphins are the ‘feel good’ neurotransmitters. They are the natural pain relievers released by the body when it’s stressed or in pain.

One way to bring this endorphin-releasing stress into the body in a healthy way is to exercise. You shouldn’t over-exercise, causing unbearable pain but it’s ok to push yourself and ‘feel the burn’. Therapies such as massage and acupuncture can also stimulate the release of those ‘feel good’ endorphins.

Healthy Stress – Other Health Benefits

Recent research has shown anti-tumour activity in cases where people are subject to healthy stress, which would seem to indicate that healthy stress can stimulate the immune system.

Unhealthy Stress – Constant

Constant stress, where you don’t return to normal between stressful situations, is generally unhealthy stress. It can be constant worry, exhaustion and depression and, along with all the other negative repercussions, with the ongoing release of cortisol, the ‘stress hormone’, it can lead to weight gain.

Unhealthy Stress – Immune System

Your immune system is weakened if you are exposed to continual stress. You are more likely to catch every day illnesses as well as being more prone to more serious illnesses, such as cancer.

Unhealthy Stress – Everything Becomes Stressful

People who have ongoing stress issues tend to find most of life stressful in the end. Everyday stressors that people can usually cope with become too hard to deal with and add to the chronic stress that people suffer.

Developing a more detached view of these potential stressors can help people to cope with these stressful life situations.

So, we know that people need some stress in their lives but only at a healthy level! Once you learn what causes your stress, you can learn the best ways for you to reduce it and deal with it.

Download my Stress Reduction Checklist to help you to identify your stressors and ways to reduce their effects on you with ideas for how to avoid stress and embrace peacefulness.

Photo by Ben White on Unsplash

About the Author

I work with business owners and leaders to improve their wellbeing, in these days of overwhelm, whether that be physical, mental or digital, using my POWER to Live More 5 Fundamentals of Simplify, Systemise, Share, Self Care and Sustain. I also work with business leaders to help them to improve their organisational employee engagement and wellbeing. I believe they are interlinked in a lovely virtuous circle.

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