Stress is like spice – in the right proportion it enhances the flavor of a dish. Too little produces a bland, dull meal; too much may choke you – Donald Tubesing
We all experience varying levels and lengths of stress, triggered by an array of scenarios – some logical, others not. Managing this powerful emotional and physiological response to adverse or demanding circumstances comes more naturally to some, but can certainly be taught to even the most nervous of them all. The first step to controlling stress is to know your own personal anxiety, down to its deepest core. What causes your stress? What alleviates it? What affect is it having on your mind and body and what can you do to stop it?
To assist you on your journey of stress-discovery, here are five truths about stress that you may not know – but definitely need to be made aware of.
1. Stress is contagious
Anyone interacting with someone who’s stressed, especially for prolonged periods of time, has an increased risk of being affected by empathetic stress. Caregivers and family members of chronically stressed individuals are most at risk here, but even watching TV shows involving confrontations of stress can transmit the tension. This empathetic stress negatively impacts the immune system and is toxic to the mind and body in the long term. Know your limits when it comes to how much stress you can healthily expose yourself to. Also, be cognizant of how your worry may be negatively impacting those around you.
If you reach out to a sorrowful friend, a mourning parent, or a downhearted colleague who has suffered a sudden reversal of fortune or fate, be careful not to be overcome yourself by the apparent hardship. Remember to discriminate events themselves and your interpretations of them. It is not a demonstration of kindness or friendship to the people we care about to join them in surrendering to negative feelings. We do a better service to ourselves and others by remaining detached and avoiding unnecessary emotional reactions.
Still, if you are associated with someone who is depressed, stressed or hurt, show them kindness and give them a sympathetic ear; just don’t allow yourself to be pulled down.
2. Stress is detrimental to Sperm
Stress can and will seep into every facet of your life if you let it, including the bedroom. Stressed men are found to have fewer, slower sperm, which can diminish fertility. While not conclusive yet as to how stress affects the quality of semen, it is possible that stress may trigger steroid hormones known to blunt levels of testosterone and sperm production.
3. Two stressed people equals less stress
Seems counterintuitive, yes. But, when especially stressed, it is extremely helpful to share your feelings with someone who is having a similar anxious reaction to the same situation. Consider giving a presentation at work – perhaps nothing will ease your stress more than talking it out with a colleague who is undergoing the same scenario. Studies show that there is tremendous benefit gained by conversing with others whose emotional response is in line with your own.
4. Optimists are better at regulating stress
A glass-half-full mentality may be the ticket to a more stress-free life. The “stress hormone” cortisol tends to be more stable for those with positive personalities. Pessimists have difficulty regulating their emotional and physical responses to particularly stressful situations. Optimists tend to be more solution-oriented and thus better react to the stress hormone – allowing it to amplify their get-up-and-go attitudes.
5. Not all stress is bad
While stress is oftentimes the enemy, we can’t ignore its ability to push us to optimal alertness and performance. Short, but significant bouts of stress cause our brains to proliferate new nerve cells that improve mental performance. Stress hormones are an incredible adaptation that provide us with the ability to remember not only anxiety-ridden situations themselves, but more importantly, how we deal with them – ingraining us with the power of resiliency, allowing us to be ready for whatever life may throw our way. Like most things in life, stress is only beneficial in small doses. Chronic stress leads to increased risk of chronic obesity, heart disease and depression.