Contrary to Popular Belief, Stress and Anxiety are Not the Enemies
By Jasmine Payne, Resident in Counseling
More often than not, stress and anxiety are viewed as dreadful things that we need to eliminate completely. Many of us think something along the lines of “if I had it all together, I wouldn’t feel so stressed or anxious.”
Stress and anxiety are not inherently bad or wrong. In fact, there is an optimal level of stress which allows us to be our most productive selves. The Yerkes-Dodson law (displayed graphically below) states moderate levels of stress are best when it comes to performance. There is a thin line between optimal stress levels and fatigue or exhaustion, but with too little stress our performance is very low.
Anxiety is a Beneficial Warning System
It is hardwired to give you a heads up about potential dangers in the future. Without this system in place, we would not be properly cautious or thoughtful. That being said, not only are these systems valuable but both stress and anxiety are ultimately inevitable throughout our lives.
So… if we cannot completely rid ourselves of them, what can we do? We can change how we view them, and we can alter how we respond to them. Stress and anxiety become problematic when there are chronically high levels of intensity over a long period of time. Or when they misfire – sounding the alarm bells for a minute issue.
If we can shift our perspective from judgment or panic to curiosity, we can more mindfully tune in to what our body is trying to communicate. Perhaps stress is telling you to slow down or to take time for things that can replenish and restore your reserves. Maybe anxiety is attempting to alert you about an upcoming difficulty and get you thinking about possible solutions.
Next time you feel that anxiety rise in your chest or the familiar pressure of your stress response, turn-in and ask what is going on? What do I need right now? How can I relieve some of this pressure? Or offer yourself a message of reassurance- I am okay and I am capable of handling this situation. You may find that is a big portion of what you need.
If stress/anxiety becomes chronic or feels unmanageable and overwhelming, lean on your support system. Delegate where possible and make sure you are resting. Ask for help. Reach out to a counselor to obtain more effective tools of stress management and tactics to incorporate self-compassion.
Reach out to us if you would like to work through how stress and anxiety are affecting you!