Good Stress, Bad Stress


This week’s Thrive in Five I want to talk about when good stress becomes bad stress.

Now stress is not a bad thing; Childbirth is stressful, going to the gym can be stressful, deadlines are stressful – but all of those things help us to get stuff done.

It becomes problematic when it’s prolonged and elevated. In other words, let’s take a glass of water, for example, even if the glass was full of water, it wouldn’t be heavy. It wouldn’t be difficult for me to hold that up.

If, however, I’m expected to hold that up for hours on end, it then becomes problematic. It then becomes heavy, my arm starts to ache, and I struggle to manage it.

Intermittent stress is fine. In fact, it can be positive. It’s what we call a hormetic stress.

If we think about the gym and you were to work out all day, every day, it would soon become problematic for your health. But intermittently it’s good for you, if you get adequate recovery.

This applies to things like saunas – great for you if you do it intermittently for short periods. Not good for you if you sit in there all day. You’ll be toast.
A hormetic stress is something that, in the right dose, is good for you, but could kill you in the incorrect dosage.

At what point does stress move from being a good hormetic stress to a bad one?

Generally, you’ll start to experience signs of overtraining or overexertion.

Things like unexplained aches and pains, fatigue, insomnia, libido problems, difficulties relaxing, a racing mind, immune system very suppressed, so you get ill more often and struggle to shake off illnesses when you get them. If you start to experience any of those symptoms, that essentially is you in the overtraining or overexerting zone.

And that’s when the things you’re doing, that can be a good stress, are starting to become bad stresses, and you need to take action.

If you want to find out more about this, we have lots of content on our website about overtraining, overreaching and burnout.

Here are few to get you started:

What Are The Signs Of Overtraining?
The Classic Stages Of Burnout
The Early Signs Of Burnout Aka The ‘Mystery Sickness’

It’s something to keep aware of, staying on the right side, getting enough stress to get that hormetic positive health response, but not overstepping the mark into, essentially, distress.

As always, if you have any questions please do get in touch here:

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