Although it’s a natural part of everyday life, stress can get overwhelming. April is Stress Awareness Month, so here at HelloGiggles, we’ve been looking for ways to prevent or minimize the stress in our lives. However, tons of myths about stress still exist. And we always believed they were true. But now it’s time to get to the facts.
We all feel stress, because it’s our body’s natural response to protect ourselves. During prehistoric times, when we needed to run from predators, stress was the driving force that kicked our bodies into gear. But these days, stress usually isn’t about life and death situations — and it has really started to affect our health. So it’s time to set the record straight, because our wellness depends on it.
So here are 11 myths about stress that we need to stop believing, and what we actually need to know.
1Myth: Stress is the same for everyone.
According to the American Psychological Association (APA), stress is different for everyone. Responses could be emotional, physical, or a combination of the two. But remember, comparing ourselves to other people can also cause more stress, so it’s best to avoid that.
Because we all react to and exhibit stress differently, we all need different strategies to manage that stress. So just because your BFF took up yoga and now she’s totally zen doesn’t mean that Downward Dog will chase all your troubles away.
2Myth: Because it’s a natural response, you can’t do anything about your stress
According to the APA, once your stress gets out of hand, everything becomes more difficult to manage. So even though it’s totally natural to experience some stress, planning can help manage it. And when you’re managing your stress from the start, you’re less likely to feel overwhelmed.
It’s also really helpful to know your stress triggers. If you know that traveling gets you so stressed that you don’t enjoy the first day of your trip, try to plan extra carefully. Planning ahead of situations that might stress you out can absolutely help control your level of stress.
3Myth: If you don’t have stress symptoms, you aren’t stressed
Just because you’re not experiencing “typical” stress symptoms, doesn’t mean you’re not feeling stressed. You might just not recognize your own symptoms. The American Institute of Stress cites 50 “common” effects of stress on your body, so there are TONS of symptoms you could be experiencing and not attributing to stress.
These effect include symptoms like “unexplained or frequent ‘allergy” attacks,” “increased or decreased appetite,” and “forgetfulness, disorganization, confusion.” Those symptoms might not immediately strike us as stress, but they can be related. So if you’re feeling “off” lately, know that stress could be a major contributor.
4Myth: Stress comes from what’s happening in your life
According to psychologist Andrew Bernstein writing for Psychology Today, stress comes from what we think about what’s happening in our lives. That’s why, as we said above, stress symptoms and management are different for everybody. Because we don’t all have the same emotional reactions to situations. This info helps, because you can uncover the roots of your stress by evaluating how you feel about a situation. Not just about the events that happened.
5Myth: Stress is always bad thing
The APA reminds us that stress is totally natural. Our lives aren’t meant to be stress-free, but it’s a delicate balance. And too often, we go way too far in the stress direction. Honestly, we can’t think of many people suffering from a condition of being too relaxed. But the key here is to remember not to stress because you can’t get rid of all your stress. Just try to find some balance.
6Myth: A drink is an effective way to deal with stress
After a long, tough day, we know you’d love nothing more than to curl up on your couch with Netflix and a glass of merlot. But maybe think twice if you’re looking to manage your stress. According to a study for the Journal of Endocrinology and Metabolism, alcohol actually increases the amount of stress hormones we produce. So that wine may actually increase your stress.
Plus, that wine you’re drinking may not have its intended effect. According to a study from the University of Chicago, stress actually reduces the sedative effects of alcohol. So stress really can be a bit of a buzz kill.
7Myth: Only negative events cause stress
Ask anyone who’s planned a wedding, and they’ll tell you how stressful one of the happiest days in your life can be. As we said above, stress isn’t about the event, but how you’re feeling about the event. Even events that are meant to be fun can be stressful. If you’re traveling, but flying makes you nervous, travel may cause you stress. We want to reiterate that you shouldn’t stress more realizing that you’re letting a fun activity cause stress. Because that’s totally normal.
8Myth: Stress causes gray hair
We’re as happy as anyone to know that this really is a myth. Although, gray is still a totally fabulous look. But unfortunately, stress can still have a major effect on your hair. According to a study by the American Academy of Dermatology, stress can cause your hair to fall out. When you experience a great deal of stress, your body might temporarily stop growing hair, because it’s focusing on repairing the rest of your body. Definitely another great reason to keep your stress at bay as best you can.
9Myth: Stress motivates us
Andrew Bernstein emphasizes that we need to distinguish between stress and stimulus. He explained, “Having deadlines, setting goals, and pushing yourself to perform at capacity are stimulating.” But that feeling is not the same as stress. And all those impressive, successful people that you know who seem to thrive under stress, Andrew suggests that they probably succeed in spite of their stress, and not because of it.
10Myth: It’s obvious when someone is stressed out
As we saw above, there are SO many symptoms of stress. That means that you or someone else might experience stress in totally different ways and not recognize it. According to Mind Body Network, don’t rely on your (or someone else’s) mood, body language, and behavior to accurately convey your stress. Because these responses are different for everyone, so it’s not necessarily so obvious. So if you’re stressed, tell someone. And if someone you love seems a little off, talk to them. Opening up can be a HUGE stress reliever for both of you.
11Myth: The more successful you are, the more stressed you are
Last but definitely not least is this idea that being stressed must mean you’re successful. We often associate stress with success, but that’s not totally accurate. Stress doesn’t make someone successful. In fact, stress reduces a lot of our productivity. Mind Body Network explains that stress can cause “decreased mental acuity, lowered creativity, diminished ability to problem-solve, mental exhaustion, and eventually physical burnout.” None of those sound like a recipe for success. So don’t feel like stress is required for your success. In fact, you are WAY better off without it.