The first Wednesday in November every year is National Stress Awareness Day. How sad it is, that stress has to be given a day of acknowledgment. That pressure, overwhelm and strain are part of everyday living, and that we have adapted to being in this mode as if it is a healthy optimal way of functioning. And whilst I am not advocating for no pressure or no stress, as that is not ideal either, I am insisting that excess stress is not optimal either.
One of the problems with stress is our inability to recognise it’s subtle signs. Many of us tend to ignore the symptoms and signs, power through, keep our heads up with bravado, piling more and more onto our already overloaded schedules. However stress can be stealthy, it can slowly creep up on us without us being immediately aware of it.
Unfortunately, its only when we’re really stressed out or feeling paralysed, perhaps struggling with the physical symptoms that have manifested due to being so stressed that our awareness kicks in and the desire to take action is heightened.
There are numerous signs and symptoms of stress that many of us are unaware of. Not everybody develops exactly the same symptoms and research has indicated that, although there are common symptoms of stress, individuals vary in the symptoms they present, some of us may have mainly physical symptoms such as muscle pain and tension, others may present with symptoms such as crying or anger.
In today’s world, our fairytale wish is that stress will go away, and that we will find that illusory balance in life. The truth is that stress in and of itself isn’t a toxin, and depending on your mindset, can actually be seen as a resource that can motivate, inspire and allow for growth. From an evolutionary standpoint, the stress response boosts the body and mind into a more efficient way of functioning, that will provide greater energy and allow the body to become stronger and healthier. This is known as physiological thriving.
So if the reality is that stress is here to stay, and life is busy and our demands are great, then it is not the stress itself that is the problem but rather it is how we channel this response. Using our stress as an opportunity to thrive and grow, learn from it, can be better than being overwhelmed and falling victim to it. I am in no way advocating that we embrace all stressors, and increase our load. Not at all. I am saying that if stress is part our human existence then finding positive strategies to use it to enhance our lives is far better than falling victim to its negative tentacles.