Monday Mind Talks: Discover the difference between positive and negative types of stress
Now Dr. Shradha Shejekar, a Psychiatrist with Altius Hospital, Bangalore shares her insight on the matter and acquaints us with positive stress as well as negative stress.
As we go about our daily lives, a lot of us may complain about stress and feeling the pressure. In fact, the mere mention of the term stress- itself brings out the feeling of fatigue the moment we come across it! Of course, this is natural because we know of stress in many other forms such as ‘tension’, feeling under ‘pressure’ and even chest ‘tightness’.
Now Dr. Shradha Shejekar, MBBS, MD Psychiatry and a Consultant Psychiatrist with Altius Hospital, Bangalore shares her insight on the matter and acquaints us with positive stress as well as negative stress.
Is stress always a negative experience that harms the body?
Think about this: You are stressed about your work deadline, over the day you might experience feelings like dullness of mood, fatigue, tightness of muscles of back/chest/limbs and uneasiness, you might feel pressure in your head and headache, you might also complain of body ache, difficulty to breathe: this is due to the underlying ‘tension’ in your various body parts causing all this secondary to stress. But stress is not always a bad thing as we perceive.
Tell us about eustress and why it is considered a positive type of stress
Consider this scenario, its 9am you are stuck in the traffic and your reporting time at office is 9:15am, your office is still 10kms away, if you are late you might have to face loss of pay. This scenario would ideally make anyone anxious and stressed. This stress would immediately signal your body to release stress hormones which increase one’s heart rate, give them adrenal rush and hence anxiety and can make one ready to fight or run away from the situation.
Mostly, one would start looking at shortcut through the traffic or calling the office to inform about the traffic situation and hence the delay (all to fight the situation) or taking a leave from office for the day (run away from the situation). I would call this Eustress! WHY? Because this is helping you to face the situation and helping you plan the day ahead.
What is distress and how does it vary from routine stress?
Now, imagine, you are in your 30s healthy, wise and wealthy, but one day you suddenly start thinking of your old age and the associated difficulties and the helplessness and you are unable to find a solution to it, because basically the problem is not there in first place and you are tending to overthink the worst possibilities of a situation that might never come in your life. The kind of stress might be persistent for some time because every time this thought crosses your mind you might feel helpless, anxious and worried. This I would call Distress.
The stress when not addressed for a long time like few months releases stress hormones which can affect various organs of the body like brain causing forgetfulness, dullness of cognition, fatigue, sleep disturbance, anxiety, depression, psychosis; and by affecting other organs it can cause high BP, high blood sugars, body ache, somatic complaints, digestive troubles and much more. This stress is like the guest at home who is uninvited and staying for very long! In other words, Distress.
Not every type of stress harms you
Not all types of stress are bad. Stress can be a normal reaction to a situation too, which one should learn to understand and cope with. ‘Do not stress about all types of stress’ should be the mantra. But if you feel that your stress is out of proportion and causing you chronic discomfort in health then do seek support from the psychiatrist at the earliest. The earlier the problem is identified, the smoother is the recovery.
If you are in doubt whether your stress is eustress or distress, seek expert opinion of a psychiatrist who are always happy to help you understand your mind!