Stress! We talk about it, we "stress" about it, we work on ways to reduce it, but try as we might, it's always there. Work stress and life stress are considered a bad thing, right? Well, maybe not entirely.
Strictly speaking, stress is not a bad thing, though too much stress is overwhelming, and if left unaddressed, can be harmful in ways that are certainly familiar to most of us here on theONC.
Some stress is not only inevitable, but healthy. Well-managed stress keeps us energized, motivated, focused, and engaged in our relationships and the world around us. It helps us to think clearly and to function efficiently.
While the pressure of managing multiple patients on a floor can lead to mistakes in care when the load is unreasonably high, a good balance gives us the impetus that we need to organize our thoughts, prioritize situations, and concentrate fully on each task at hand. When we are properly and fully prepared for the emergencies and crises that we must meet and manage in our daily work, the stress of facing them brings a surge of energy, emotional (and physical) strength, and clarity of thought that makes it possible to work quickly and effectively.
When we have the time and space that we need, as human beings, to decompress emotionally and mentally, after a crisis or a long day at work, when we re-center and allow the stress to dissipate after it has served its purpose, it becomes a healthy psychological, emotional, and physical ally.
Healthy stress is a "shot in the arm" at a critical moment; unhealthy stress lingers and troubles us at times when it is unnecessary. Unhealthy stress can feel like a backache, a stomachache, headache, or even a black cloud of worry and persistent troubling thoughts. It can feel like unresolvable anger and irritability. It feels out-of-control.
Healthy stress can be frightening but exciting. It can feel powerful and compelling. It drives us. It can feel nerve-wracking or strangely calming, but it generally helps us to feel more in-control even in chaotic situations.
It's worth noting that with any kind of stress, we need to find ways to relieve and reduce it when it is not needed. One way to do that is to notice what it feels like, to note the difference between what is working for us and what is not, and to embrace and honor the stress that is healthy, even as we allow it to resolve after an episode and to actively reduce our distress when and where we can.
Are you able to achieve a healthy balance with both types of stress in your professional and personal life?