Top 5 HUGE Myths About Being President
5 Myths About Stress You Need To Stop Believing
The dictionary defines stress as "a state of mental or emotional strain or tension resulting from adverse or demanding circumstances." And you know it when you have it. It's been blamed for so many health consequences—weight gain, hair loss, insomnia, even heart attacks—that it's been dubbed an epidemic, naturally stirring up misinformation and myth-conceptions about it. We examined five of them. (Here are 10 signals you're way too stressed.)
MYTH 1:Alcohol soothes stress.
MYTHBUSTER:Alcohol stimulates production of the stress hormone cortisol and can disrupt sleep, making stress worse. Some people think that if a little alcohol takes the edge off, more might be even better, says Karina Davidson, a professor of behavioral medicine in the departments of medicine, cardiology, and psychiatry at Columbia College of Physicians and Surgeons. But in addition to risking dependency, increasing alcohol consumption in the hopes of managing stress only taxes the body more, as higher levels of cortisol may eventually damage the nervous system (not to mention the liver, heart, and other organs).
TIP:If you drink, stick to one alcoholic beverage a day whether you're stressed or not, or opt for healthier stress-busters like your favorite music, a good book, or a friend who always makes you laugh, says Amit Sood, chair of the Mayo Clinic Mind-Body Medicine Initiative.
Check out you body on alchohol:
MYTH 2:Stress is a great motivator.
MYTHBUSTER:Some people use stress as motivation, but that can backfire. "I look at stress like somebody might look at salt in your food," Sood says. "Your food might be bland with zero salt. But you don't want too much salt, because it'll overpower the taste of everything else." Stress, too, has an optimal level, above which productivity, attention, creativity, and, of course, happiness are all depleted. The perfect amount is different for everyone, Sood says, and can even change for the same person depending on the circumstances. "A 'good' stressor—a passion project or great adventure—could feel more negative if you're tired or not eating well or pushing too hard," says Heidi Hanna, executive director of the American Institute of Stress.
TIP:Step back. If stress is draining your energy and focus, take a break, close your eyes, and clear your mind. If you can, head outside for a brief walk—even 10 minutes can raise productivity when you return to the task. (Here are 18 common causes of stress.)
MYTH 3:Stress leads to ulcers.
MYTHBUSTER:Most ulcers are caused by infection with H. pylori bacteria or by long-term use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen. Stress can, however, contribute to ulcers by increasing your immune system's vulnerability to infections, Hanna says. Plus, stress creates inflammation in the body, which can add to the chronic aches and pains you might take NSAIDs for, as well as exacerbate other medical conditions, including asthma, arthritis, and diabetes.
TIP:Use your physical health as an incentive to limit stress. "When faced with a stressful scenario, ask yourself: Is this worth having a heart attack over? Is this worth getting dementia over?" Sood says. Putting the stressor in perspective may remind you to stay calm.
MYTH 4:Most people exposed to severe stress develop PTSD.
MYTHBUSTER:Some 10 to 15% of people who live through traumatic events experience post-traumatic stress disorder, Sood says. Factors that increase a person's risk of developing the condition include a past history of mental illness or substance abuse, lack of support after a traumatic event, and additional stress in the wake of the trauma, like the loss of a loved one.
TIP:Social support is key, mentions Sood. Talk with trusted friends or family members, or seek professional help from a support group or therapist. These positive coping strategies are linked to a lower risk of developing PTSD after trauma.
MORE: 10 Warning Signs Of Burnout And Excessive Stress
MYTH 5:Stress is an inevitable outgrowth of modern life.
MYTHBUSTER:Stressful events may be unavoidable, but your reactions determine whether or not you feel stress. Imagine this oftencited example: An experienced skier approaches an icy slope with excitement, while an inexperienced skier instead feels fear. There's only one way down the mountain, but the two skiers have different impressions of the descent. In the same way, people armed with effective relaxation tools can navigate the "icy slopes" of modern life. If you're stuck in traffic, for example, "the stress you feel is optional," Sood says.
TIP:Accept your circumstances and reframe your emotional response to them. Regularly practicing mindfulness by focusing on the present moment builds resilience, meaning you'll be less likely to lose your cool next time you're stressed. In a traffic jam, breathe deeply, notice how your body feels, and become aware of everything you see and hear. Until the cars start moving again, you'll feel calmer than if you let your mind wander.
Video: Debunking the 5 Most Common Meditation Myths | Light Watkins | TEDxVeniceBeach
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