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Is Stress Actually Good for Us?

I work with many clients who are very stressed related to either their personal and/or professional life. My job as their clinical therapist is to better understand reasons why my clients are stressed and possible coping skills to manage their stress. Sometimes their stress can lead to anxiety and can be quite debilitating, while others have a manageable level of stress. Whether it is stress or anxiety, both can be useful tools to help us better understand ourselves.

I recently read an article from Fast Company that touched on a similar topic, “This is why you should learn to embrace stress (rather than fight it)” by author Tracy Bower. According to the American Psychological Association (APA), more than 60% of Americans are stressed about the future and money and 61% are also stressed about their jobs. While many people are stressed, it does not necessarily need to be a bad thing in our lives, in fact some may argue that a manageable level of stress can be beneficial for us. Now you may be asking why stress is good for us. Great question!

Below are five key points Bower argues why stress can be helpful for us.

  • Shows commitment and determination. If you are stressed about something, it actually shows that you truly do care about that activity, otherwise you would not find yourself invested/stressed about it. Having a few butterflies in your stomach prior to a presentation can show you that you care about your performance and that you want to succeed. Having butterflies in your stomach does not mean you have a weakness, it is actually your body and mind connecting and alerting you that something important is about to happen.
  • Value human connection. We all value being connected to other humans to some degree. Having stress may signal to you that you truly do care about succeeding in something that can possibly have a greater impact on others. A small amount of external pressure from others can help us feel motivated, especially if you’re motivated to succeed in making the world you live in a better place, whether that is one to one interactions, group interactions, or interacting with a large community.
  • Emotional awareness. Having a bit of anxiety after you write a less than professional email or a sarcastic comment on someone’s social media page can be an important tool to take an internal look on yourself of how you interact with others. If you find yourself feeling a little bad and/or stressed after sending an email that was not as kind as it should have been, it can help you re-evaluate how you should send messages in the future in a kinder way.
  • Flexibility and change. Sometimes if you are feeling very stressed out about something, it might mean for you to take that pivot move in your life, whether it is in your personal or professional life. Sometimes stress can be that alert system to re-evaluate why you are staying in a situation that is causing you daily stress.
  • Challenge necessity. Sometimes when people are idle in their life, it can create boredom which then can create stress. When this happens, it can be a wakeup call to find other things in your life that can challenge you so that you no longer are feeling extreme boredom, as that does not provide you a fulfilling life.

It is important to notice the difference between having some stress to motivate you versus extreme anxiety preventing a life of happiness. It is crucial to keep in mind that if you are feeling extreme stress that is leading to anxiety, that is a sign that the stress is no longer as beneficial for you.

If the stress is leading you to anxiety, it may be a good idea to connect with one of our skilled counselors at Symmetry Counseling today. You can contact them at 312-578-9990 to set up an appointment.

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