Are an upset stomach, loss of appetite, and neck and shoulder tension normal? Or can they be symptoms of stress to be concerned about? Do men and women experience and cope with stress in the same way? Is stress always bad? And what are the top causes of stress?
I’m answering these questions in my blog post about 6 common myths and 6 truths about stress. You’ll also find some tips about stress reduction strategies there.
6 myths about stress
1. Stress can only be due to major threats.
Stress can be due to different kinds of problems, such as major threats (family violence, illness, problems providing for your family, or violence in your community) or smaller problems (arguments with your family, uncertainty about the future, an argument with a boss, being overworked).
2. No symptoms – no stress.
Just because you don’t have symptoms doesn’t mean you’re not experiencing stress. Stress often affects the body. Many people get unpleasant feelings. Common physical signs include feeling anxious, run-down, or short of breath. Feeling overwhelmed, disorganized, and having difficulty concentrating are frequent mental signs of stress.
3. Stress is everywhere and can’t be managed.
Stress can be managed in many circumstances. We just need to learn how to avoid some stressors (for example, students not waiting until the last minute to start an assignment) and learn to cope with stressors that don’t depend on us.
Some stress reduction strategies are:
- Self-awareness – understanding what stress looks like and what it makes our body and mind feel like
- Practicing mindfulness
- Exercising for a minimum of 150 minutes per week
- Healthy diet
- Having a support system, including friends, family, or co-workers
- Reaching out for specialist support, such as therapists, if needed
4. Stress is the same for everyone.
It’s not true. We don’t all experience stress the same way. There are also differences in the way that men and women respond to stress.
In general, women are more likely to think and talk about what is causing stress. Women also are more likely to reach out to others for support and seek to understand the sources of their stress.
Men typically respond to stress by using distraction. And men often engage in physical activities that can offer an escape from thinking about a stressful situation.
5. Stress is always bad.
There are two types of stress: eustress and distress. While distress has negative effects on our bodies and health, eustress is what energizes us and motivates us to work, study, and make a change.
6. Only major stress symptoms require attention.
Minor symptoms — like problems with sleeping, headaches, or stomach pain — are early warnings that you are experiencing stress. You should not ignore them.
It’s time for lifestyle changes. Perhaps you should work on some stress reduction techniques, such as mindfulness, meditation, diet change, or exercise. Don’t wait till your health is compromised!
6 truths about stress
1. If stress lasts a long time—a condition known as chronic stress become harmful.
“Stress clearly promotes higher levels of inflammation, which is thought to contribute to many diseases of aging. Inflammation has been linked to cardiovascular disease, diabetes, arthritis, frailty, and functional decline,” says Dr. Janice Kiecolt-Glaser, a leading stress researcher at Ohio State University.
Research has linked chronic stress to digestive disorders, urinary problems, headaches, sleep difficulties, depression, and anxiety.
2. The top causes of stress are money and work-related pressures.
According to a 2013 survey from the American Psychological Association stress can also arise from major life changes, such as the death of a loved one, divorce, illness, or losing a job. Traumatic stress is brought on by an extreme event such as a major accident, exposure to violence, or a natural disaster such as a hurricane or flood.
3. Exercise is a great stress reducer.
“Exercise is a great stress reducer. But when people are stressed, exercise becomes less common and less appealing,” Kiecolt-Glaser says. “Instead of maintaining a healthy diet—also important to reducing stress—some people who are stressed tend to eat more donuts than vegetables.”
4. Stress may contribute to weight gain and obesity.
Compared to nonstressed people, those who were stressed burn fewer calories after high-fat meals and they produce more of the hormone insulin, which enhances fat storage.
4. Getting enough sleep is key to resilience and stress relief.
To improve your sleep habits, go to bed the same time each night and get up the same time each morning, and limit the use of light-emitting electronics like computers and smartphones before bed. The light can reduce production of a natural sleep hormone called melatonin, which then makes it hard to fall asleep.
6. Mindfulness and other meditative practices can effectively relieve stress.
“Mindfulness means staying aware and conscious of your experiences. No matter what we’re doing, we can always make time to bring our attention to our breath and body and stay there for a short period of time,” says NIH psychologist Dr. Rezvan Ameli, who specializes in mindfulness practice. “Recent studies show that even short periods of mindful attention can have a positive impact on health and well-being.”
When we engage in life, pay attention to others, focus on what we’re doing and live by our values, we manage stress much better.
9 Common Myths About Stress, The Recovery Village, 2022 https://www.premierhealth.com/your-health/articles/women-wisdom-wellness-/6-stress-myths-you-might-believe
Feeling Stressed? Stress Relief Might Help Your Health, NIH News in Health, 2014 https://newsinhealth.nih.gov/2014/12/feeling-stressed
Why is Stress Different for Everyone?, Yale School of Medicine, 2019 https://medicine.yale.edu/news-article/why-is-stress-different-for-everyone/