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debunking stress myths

Debunking Myths of Stress


June 29, 2021 | Published by

Is stress the same for everyone? Does self-care for stress really work? Can a cocktail reduce stress better than a workout? In this blog we’re breaking down and debunking these and other myths on stress.

Myth #1: Everyone experiences stress the same way.

Fact: Stress is a very personal and subjective experience. What stresses you may not stress another person at all. Here are the 3 main categories of stress:

  • Everyday stress generated by work, school, family issues, and daily responsibilities
  • Sudden stress that stems from a major life change such as a divorce, losing a job, or a cancer diagnosis
  • Stress from a traumatic event like a natural disaster or severe accident

The impact of these stressors is very subjective as well. People deal with certain types of stress better than others or may bounce back more quickly. Some people seem to to thrive on daily stress while others struggle. Your stress is not the stress of others. Comparing your stress resilience to others is unfair to you and can lead to further stress.

Myth #2: Self-care is the cure for stress.

Fact: “Self-care” has become a bit of a buzzword, with magazine articles suggesting to take a spa day or embark on a treat yourself day to destress. These activities can certainly be relaxing, but they tend to be more superficial, temporary fixes to stress. Instead, look at self-care activities more tied to your values. For example, you may find that volunteering time at a homeless shelter is more rewarding and recharging than getting a massage. There’s nothing wrong with either, but one activity may provide deeper relief from stress.

Myth #3: A cocktail is a quick fix for stress.

Fact: A gin and tonic after a rough day can sometimes feel like a miracle cure. After a few sips you feel yourself becoming lighter and your worry and stress from earlier seem insignificant. When the drink is done the source of your stress is still there. The alcohol has only created a temporary respite. Moreover, alcohol also requires the adrenal glands  to respond by manufacturing and secreting hormones to regulate the energy production, help balance blood sugar and maintain homeostasis. As a result, the extra demands placed on the adrenals may further fatigue them, exacerbating the craving for alcohol. In a similar way, carbohydrate binging and use of stimulants can temporarily mask, but ultimately exacerbate low adrenal function.

Myth #4: Stress causes cancer.

Fact: If you’ve been dealing with chronic stress for some time, you may be worried about the health effects. While chronic stress can take a toll on one’s health, psychological stress can’t cause a disease by itself. A cancer diagnosis doesn’t mean you gave it to yourself through all that stress and worry. Stress can contribute to an increased risk of disease, but not make it happen. While it’s good to be mindful of the effects of stress on your health, don’t let it disrupt the things you should be doing to stay healthy.

Myth #5: Proven stress-relieving activities work for everyone.

Fact: You’ve likely seen advice (from this blog even) that exercises like meditation and yoga are great for stress management. While this is true, these activities are not for everyone. Some people have a hard time staying still and quiet for periods of time. For these people, active mindfulness activities may be better. This could be getting outside and taking a walk with a camera, noting things you can see, hear, smell and touch. If meditation or yoga don’t work for you, go with what does.

Myth #6: You won’t get stressed if you sleep, eat and exercise regularly.

Fact: While these habits are the foundation of a healthy lifestyle, they won’t prevent stress from happening. As far as stress goes, these habits can certainly help with the symptoms and side effects of stress. However, they are not addressing the root cause of your stress. Discovering the root cause of your stress will lead to a more long-term solution. Some stress cannot be eliminated, which is where reframing comes in handy.

Myth #7: Stress is a great motivator.

Fact: Some people swear by stress being the ultimate motivator. It seems that last-minute projects and finishing things right at the deadline provide this rush that put the brain in overdrive and give you superhuman productivity. While stress may have driven you to finish, one must assess the cost. Often times this comes at the expense of good sleep and healthy eating. While you may be proud of busting out a big project in one night, think about this: how much better would you have done without a self-imposed deadline? It may seem scary to step back from methods that have worked for you, but you can build motivation in healthier ways. Keep in mind the purpose and value of the task or project, as well as the satisfaction that will come with completion.

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