Good Stress or Bad Stress?
We live in a “get set” world. Someone has likened our lives today to a sprint runner getting set in the starting blocks, First, he gets on the mark and adjusts his feet to the starting blocks. Then the “get set” from the starter leads him to tense every muscle as he anticipates breaking from the starting blocks and running when the starter says “Go.” But the starter never says “Go.” If the runner were to stay in that tense position, he would soon collapse. The “get set” level of stress is taking its toll on all of us.
Years ago, Hans Selye made the distinction between bad stress and good stress. He called the destructive stress “distress,” and he coined the word “ustress” for the healthy kind of stress. The question he asked is how does a person move their distress into the ustress column. For example, here’s what we’ve discovered about work related to stress. To turn our work distress into ustress we have to:
1.) Gain control over job stress. To do so, we may have to change jobs, but it is important that we feel some sense of control over our job.
2.) We have to do work that has meaning to us, our work has to have a purpose.
3.) We need to spend time at work getting to know our co-workers and if necessary, get support from them.
4.) We have to gain control of our time.
5.) We have to change our attitude and look at our stress as a challenge.
We could look at the stress of parenting, or the stress of a relationship, etc., in a similar way. What’s interesting about stress is that it is paradoxical. On the one hand, it is destructive to every part of our body. It raises heart rate and blood pressure, it releases hormones into our bodies, ones that are not meant to be there very long. It lowers our immune system, and it signals danger in our brain. It is the cause of our aches, pains, digestive upsets, and insomnia.
But on the other hand, it is basic to our psychological and physical growth. It prepares us to “rise to the occasion and do our best.” It stretches our vision and leads us to do things that not only amaze us, but amaze others as well. We can get a picture of this “ustress” by looking at how others have risen to the challenges of the impossible. What makes the difference? it’s what our mind focuses on that will determine whether it is distress or ustress.
Question: What’s kind of stress are you experiencing right now?