Almost everyone experiences stress at least once in their lives. Stress is an evolutionary defense mechanism that’s designed to help us cope with life’s numerous demands and stressors. These stressors can be very mild or extreme, depending on the individual. Facts about stress include that it comes from within (intrinsic) or outside a person (extrinsic). Since it’s common and nearly impossible to avoid, learning about stress and how it impacts your well-being is key to managing it in a way that serves you and keeps you healthy. In light of this, below are some facts and myths about stress that we’ve clarified.
Facts and Myths About Stress
If you don’t already, you should care about stress because of the long-lasting effects it can have on your mental and physical health. From burnout to high blood pressure, there are many ways this almost instinctive symptom can impact you when it’s out of control. Below are some common misconceptions about stress we’re debunking to bring awareness to the importance of managing stress.
Myth #1: Stress Is Always Bad for You
Fact: Sometimes, stress can be a good thing.
Is stress always a bad thing? According to experts at the University of California Berkley, stress can sometimes be a good thing.1 Certain levels of stress can make a person more alert, improving their behaviors and cognition. Too little stress can leave a person more vulnerable to certain dangers, as well as the development of depression and simple boredom.
Herein lies the difference between good and bad stress: how long an individual experiences stress. Acute or short-term stress could be beneficial, while long-term or chronic stress can become debilitating and contribute to problems with memory, cognition, mood, and more.
Myth #2: Stress Is the Same for Everyone
Fact: Stress is subjective.
How does stress affect people differently? Unfortunately, the answer isn’t clear-cut. Stress is a personal and subjective experience stemming from different sources and leading to different outcomes. A stressor for one person may not bother another individual at all.
There are several stress categories, including:
- Typical stress, which stems from work, school, family issues, and day-to-day responsibilities.
- Sudden stress caused by a life change like divorce, losing a job, or a cancer diagnosis.
- Traumatic stress that’s caused by events such as mass shootings, natural disasters, and many others.
The impact of stress is also very subjective. People may deal with certain types of stress better than others, or they may recover more quickly, depending on the type of stress. However, generally speaking, everyday stress is easier to cope with than stress caused by experiencing or witnessing a traumatic event.
Myth #3: Stress Causes Cancer
Fact: Stress does not cause cancer.
This is definitely one of the most interesting myths about stress. If you’re grappling with stress overload, you might begin to experience stress over the effects of stress – not fun. However, stress does not cause disease. While stress can increase your risk of developing a disease, such as cancer, it doesn’t cause it. According to the National Cancer Institute, psychological stress can increase the risk of harmful and maladaptive coping mechanisms, such as overeating, drinking alcohol, or smoking, all of which can spike your risk of cancer.
Myth #4: Self-Care Is a Cure-All for Stress
Fact: Self-care is different for everyone and doesn’t always work the same way.
“Self-care” is such a trendy buzzword right now in the world of health and wellness that regular manicures and bubble baths are recommended almost as cures rather than coping mechanisms. While these may be great strategies for relaxing, they’re unlikely to get to the root of the stressor.
The healthiest form of self-care is tied to your values. What drives you? What means the most to you? For instance, volunteering your time may not be as relaxing as a spa day, but it may be better for your soul than sitting in a sauna.
Myth #5: You Can Always Tell When Someone Else Is Stressed
Fact: The signs and symptoms of stress are different for everyone.
Stress can manifest itself in so many ways that it’s not always easy to tell when or if someone is stressed. Some common signs of stress include mood swings, rapid speech, or withdrawing socially, which may be obvious to others. However, symptoms like excessive worry, anxiety, or depression may not be as apparent.
Stress can have a wide-ranging impact on emotions, mood, and behavior. Just because someone doesn’t appear to be stressed doesn’t mean everything is okay. For this reason, you should always check up on your loved ones.
Myth #6: Stress Causes Ulcers
Fact: Stress can lead to physical discomfort, but it doesn’t cause ulcers.
Another interesting myth about stress is that it causes ulcers. While stress can cause physical symptoms such as stomach aches, infection from Helicobacter pylori bacteria (H pylori) is what causes peptic ulcers. Taking aspirin or NSAIDs for long periods is also associated with stomach ulcers.
However, while stress can’t necessarily cause ulcers, it can lead to gastrointestinal disorders, such as irritable bowel syndrome. If you’re experiencing stomach problems due to stress, talk to your doctor.
Myth #7: Stress Is the Best Motivator
Fact: Motivation and stress are not the same things.
Often people think they can’t get anything done until they’re pushed to the brink of stress – a last-minute deadline, for instance. We often confuse stress with motivation, almost allowing ourselves to get to the point where we’re overwhelmed and in a corner. However, consider how much better you would do if you weren’t up against a ridiculous, self-imposed, and manufactured deadline.
There are healthier and more efficient ways to get motivated without falling back on procrastination and stress. Remember the purpose and value of the tasks and allow the peace and satisfaction that comes with getting them done in a timely manner to motivate you. Focusing on growth and accomplishment for motivation rather than fear and panic is much healthier than relying on stressful alternatives.
What Are the Key Signs of Stress Affecting Mental Health?
Understanding how to cope with stress is crucial for protecting your physical and mental health. Stress can impact our emotions, body, and behavior in numerous ways. Sometimes we might realize we’re stressed right away, while other times, we don’t realize it until we’ve hit burnout. As a Pompano Beach treatment center that offers treatment for depression and other mental health disorders, we believe that understanding how stress impacts your mind and body is crucial for finding effective coping mechanisms that work for you.
Common effects of stress on mental health include:
- A sense of dread
- Anxiety and nervousness
- Disinterest in life
- Feeling depressed
- Feeling like you’ve lost your sense of humor
- Feeling neglected or lonely
- Feeling overburdened or overwhelmed
- Feeling wound up
- Racing thoughts that you can’t “turn off”
- Unable to enjoy yourself
- Worsening symptoms of existing mental health problems
Physical side effects of stress include:
- Blurred eyesight or sore eyes
- Changes in your period or menstrual cycle
- Chest pains
- Constipation or diarrhea
- Developing rashes or itchy skin
- Difficulty breathing
- Existing health problems worsen
- Feeling sick, dizzy, or fainting
- High blood pressure
- Indigestion or heartburn
- Muscle aches and headaches
- Panic attacks
- Sleep problems
- Sudden weight gain or weight loss
Stress can also lead to behaviors such as:
- Decreased sexual libido
- Excessive crying or tearfulness
- Jaw clenching
- Memory problems
- Nail biting
- Over-eating (otherwise referred to as stress eating)
- Not eating enough
- Not leaving your room
- Skin picking
- Spending or shopping too much
- Substance abuse
- Withdrawal from others
If not dealt with properly, stress can become overwhelming to the point where it can trigger depression, anxiety, or other forms of mental illness. Therefore, it’s important to develop healthy ways of coping with stress.
Additionally, as a rehab that offers both addiction and mental health treatment in Pompano, we understand there’s a link between substance abuse and mental health. Many people turn to drugs and alcohol to cope with stress and other mental health problems, which may only contribute to addiction or co-occurring disorders.
If you or someone you care about is battling addiction or mental illness, our Pompano rehabilitation center can help. We offer a variety of addiction treatment programs and mental health services that can help you regain your health and life.
- Berkeley News - Researchers find out why some stress is good for you