There are different types of stress – some good and some bad. These are identified, together with some of the outcomes.

“The greatest weapon against stress is our ability to choose one thought over another.”
William James – Philosopher and psychologist

Stress is a physiological or psychological response to a situation. Many of us think of stress as a purely negative force whereas, in reality, it can be both negative and positive.

Positive Stress (also known as Eustress):

  • It’s what provides the types of motivation and energy you need to get on with a task that’s overdue and really should be completed.
  • It can help you to achieve a goal that you’ve set for yourself and provides you with the adrenalin to carry it through.
  • You feel stress when you’re on one of those exciting rides at the Theme Park, feeling absolutely terrified but loving at every minute of it – at least when it’s finished! Or when you went skiing, white water rafting, para-gliding or stock car racing. You actually chose these stressful activities!
  • It can happen when you watch a thrilling, exciting, horror, mystery or sci-fi movie.
  • It’s what gives you passion, anticipation and stimulation.
  • It protects you during a threatening, high pressure or dangerous situation – what’s called the ‘fight or flight’ response. This is when your body needs to react quickly; it prepares to either fight or run away, so the heart rate, blood pressure and muscle strength will all increase. It can also be triggered during illness to help your body to fight infection.
  • It’s what will enable you to find the courage necessary making changes in your life that you so desire.

So – while you may well have a greater interest at present in learning more about the negative aspects of stress, or maybe work stress relief because that‘s what adversely affects you, it’s important also to acknowledge the positive role it plays in your life. What you ideally need is to maintain a good balance of the two – which will not necessarily be an equal balance.

When you’ve a lot to do and you’re feeling stressed about it, just knowing the stress is there to help you to get on and tackle it or to stimulate you to perform better – can make you feel differently about it! Recognise this often enough and you can re-programme your sub-conscious mind. (This is taught in Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction.)

In fact, if you don’t have enough positive stress you’re likely to be prone to boredom, lack of energy, feelings of hopelessness and overwhelm, lack of creativity and motivation.

Negative Stress and Symptoms:

Unfortunately, you’ll also feel negative stress at some point, be it at work or at home, physical or mental. Things get on top of you for one reason or another – you feel you can’t cope, you’re overloaded, you can’t see your way out of a situation, you’re getting wound up about things, you can’t make a decision, your relationship isn’t going well….  All of these may have an effect on you.

Some of the most common effects are:

  • Palpitations
  • Breathlessness
  • Chest pain
  • Nausea
  • Upset stomach
  • Headache
  • Neck pain
  • Back ache
  • Frequent colds, sore throats etc.
  • Irritability
  • Anger
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Moodiness
  • Insomnia
  • Poor appetite
  • Over eating
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Procrastination
  • Drinking too much
  • Feeling overwhelmed
  • Low energy

These unwanted outcomes can be severely debilitating and can disrupt your work and family life. They can affect the day-to day decisions you take, and therefore they can ultimately affect your future.

Some may be caused by major life events which can neither be predicted nor changed – things such as illness, the death of a loved one or redundancy.

Others might be related to life changes like marriage, divorce, becoming a parent, changing job, moving house etc. They don’t necessarily have to be bad or negative things to create stress, the change and the responsibility is enough.

The point at which these things become harmful and the severity of the stress, is different for everyone. It depends on your general problem-solving skills, your personality, and the particular abilities you have that will help you to resolve a specific issue (see Stress reduction tips). What someone else can experience as a stressful situation you may take in your stride, and vice-versa. Your resilience to stress is also related to how healthy you are and how quickly your body is able to repair itself.

Some stress is not created by external factors but from within; maybe you’re a perfectionist who has unrealistic expectations of yourself; perhaps you have low self-esteem and believe you’re not good enough; you might have a lot of anger within you that boils away just below the surface; your attitude towards life may be generally pessimistic; you may have worries and concerns that you don’t express.

If you’d like to know some facts about how stress is becoming more of problem in the UK see Stress relief UK.

The good news is that there are things you can do to improve your situation. For example, learning a skill like stress reduction meditation can help you keep your stress levels under control. Some people may tackle their stress by themselves (see Stress relief tips), successfully or otherwise, while others will choose to use coaching to help them ‘see the trees from the wood’ and make necessary changes and adjustments to control unnecessary stress.