We often associate stress with the negative aspects of our lives, like when our schedule is swamped, when we have to minimal time to throw together a presentation for work, or when your hubby's mom just keeps swinging by to offer advice for your new house. Stress is nestled within almost every nook and cranny of life, especially when you become a parent. The learning process for being a mother and a wife can lead to an insane amount of responsibility, so before you collapse under the pressure it might be time to learn how to divert all that energy! Instead of allowing your anxiety to overwhelm you, you can take control and find a silver lining. Believe it or not, managing your stress has an astounding amount of benefits for your mind and body. Don't believe us? Keep reading to find out how! Below we'll discuss what causes stress and then how to bridle that stress and turn it into something good!
What causes stress? We all know the basic symptoms that alert us to impending stress: the sweaty hands, racing thoughts, increased frustration and irritability, etc. Well, when you begin to experience any kind of stress your body manifests it both physically and mentally. You can obviously see that physical reaction in, say your sweaty hands; likewise, you can see the mental reaction in your racing thoughts. Many professionals would claim that you are experiencing what is commonly referred to as the "fight or flight" response; your nervous system is responding to certain hormones that will ultimately predict your behavior. If you've ever stepped into the street without looking and nearly got clocked by a car, you know all about the shaking hands, rapid breath and wide eyes. You (hopefully) managed to leap out of the way just in time. Stress can actually give you a sudden, powerful explosion of speed, strength, and heightened senses that, when used in a controlled setting (i.e. not the middle of a road), can give you a huge advantage.
What can stress do for you? Contrary to popular belief, the "fight or flight" response can be more than just a rush of uncontrollable hormones. If you can harness that burst of energy and intuition, you may be surprised by the benefits you could attain. A lot of good can come out of a little stress. Check out these four benefits. (via Huffington Post)
- Stress can enhance your memory. Think back to when you were learning to drive. Your brain naturally kicks in when you are under pressure, and releases stress hormones that actually increase your memory. Getting behind the wheel for the first time is a stressful experience for everyone involved, but your memory was at its best during those sessions. Stress hormones increase your alertness and can improve your information recall. Definitely a plus, right? Keep in mind that too much of a good thing is bad, though. Too much stress can actually inhibit your free recall and make your memories more foggy and indistinct.
- Stress can boost your immune system. We know that there is tons of info out there (and on our site) that claims that stress really weakens your immune system, but hear us out; we aren't contradicting ourselves! The right kind of stress helps your body release hormones that serve as your defense system against illness. As long as these hormones remain under control, there's a good chance you can fight off illness as long as it's in the early stages. However, if your stress hormones overwhelm your immune system, which occurs when your stress lasts a long time, then you risk breaking down your body's natural defense systems and opening it up to potential infection.
- Stress can help you at work. Okay, a strong work ethic and knowledge base is absolutely essential, but a little stress can do a lot for you in the workplace. Think about it: You end up browsing your emails or chatting with coworkers on days when you don't have anything due. Throw in a couple deadlines, and suddenly you are Wonder Woman! As long as you channel your stress into productivity rather than passivity, you're going to be well on your way to a promotion.
- Stress can make life more interesting. Sure, lazing around on the couch may be fun for a slow weekend, but can you imagine if every day was like that? No thank you! As humans, we naturally strive to challenge ourselves and test our own limits... for entertainment! Just consider the stressful challenges that we place before ourselves: climbing a rock wall, sky diving, going on a date, having a baby. All of these cause stress, and yet many people embrace them as an essential part of life. Overcoming the challenges associated with these events leads to self-fulfillment, happiness and exhilaration, all of which contribute to our overall health.
Keep in mind that the benefits of experiencing stress come into play only as long as your anxiety is not long-term. Little bursts of stress are perfectly natural, and most people can easily cope with their body's responses. However, remaining in a state of perpetual anxiety has serious consequences, so make sure you know when it is time to sit back and take a deep breath! For more information, check out our sources: Huffington Post, The American Institute of Stress.