Did you know that stress can be positive? Here are some helpful ways to eliminate bad stress in your life and embrace the good!

Did you know that stress can actually be good for you?

It really can – to the right degree. 

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Depending on who you ask, there are many different definitions of stress. In general, it’s your body’s physical, mental, or emotional response to demand. It’s the feeling you get when you think the demand you’re facing outweighs your ability to handle it. 

According to the American Institute of Stress, the top causes of stress in the US are pressures on the job, money, health, and relationships. At least 70% of people experience some type of stress on a regular basis. I know so many women who fall into that number – including myself. 

As a full-time Pediatrician and mom of five, I’m no stranger to stress!

Every weekday morning, I’m charged with the task of getting myself, the kids, and my husband, ready and out the door on time. Let me tell you – it’s not easy! Even though I try to prepare the night before, the unexpected always happens. My kindergartner can’t find her opposite shoe, my 3rd-grader wants to wear a jacket that isn’t clean, the baby has an explosion in his diaper or ruins his shirt as we’re ready to walk out the door. Some mornings, I’m thrown papers to sign at the last minute or my husband has an “urgent” request he needs my assistance with. Other mornings, things flow perfectly and we get out on time without any problems; but then I get stuck in traffic because of an accident on the way. Add to that, figuring out what everyone will eat for dinner, how I’m going to make it to the kids’ practices and events, spending time with my husband, etc.

Talk about stress!

I’m sure you can relate. 

But, while we’re all faced with some degree of stress in our day-to-day lives, it’s important to recognize the difference between good and bad stress and the effects each can have.

Why is stress always thought of as bad?

Your body’s “fight or flight” response is activated when you’re stressed. This is usually in response to a threat or fear (think about a gazelle trying to get away from a lion). Physically, your heart races, you have a rush of adrenaline, cortisol and other hormones. If this happens too often or goes on for too long, it can actually cause damage to the blood vessels and organs in your body. This can cause problems with your immune system, brain function, and actually cause you to age at a faster rate. Not only that, it increases your risk of depression, heart disease, and even cancer. This is what’s considered “bad stress”.

Most of us can deal with short-term stressors over and over throughout the day (like rushing to work and balancing our responsibilities). Your body is made to handle them. But it becomes a problem when there’s no stress-free period – when your body is constantly stressed and doesn’t get a chance to rest. If you have a stressful job, an unhappy home or relationship, financial troubles, or are dealing with a chronic illness – these type of stressors can take their toll on you. 

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What is good stress?

On the other hand, good stresses in your life are things that you’re excited about, things that you look forward to or “want” to do. When you’re faced with good stress, there’s no real threat or fear. Some examples are working towards a goal or facing a new situation (like a new job, meeting someone new, etc). 

Good stress keeps life interesting.

It keeps you excited about your life, always giving you something to look forward to. It pushes and motivates you. Bad stress, on the other hand, weighs you down and can make you feel pretty lousy. It makes you tense, can give you headaches, changes in your appetite, an upset stomach, fatigue – and the list goes on.

So…what can you do about the bad stress in your life?

8 ways to eliminate bad stress

Here are a few practices that have helped me to minimize the stress in my busy life:

Stick to your routines

I’ve found that when I stick to my nightly and morning routines my stress level goes WAY down. The same goes for regular meal planning. I encourage you to establish and stick to routines so that things run a little more smoothly. The same goes for your short-term and long-term goals. Having a plan and actually sticking to it can really help you to stay focused on and accomplish your goals, making you less stressed and more fulfilled in the long run. 

Re-evaluate your job

I had to do this a few years ago when I was in a position that was demanding way too much of my time and energy. It was pulling me away from my family and the things that I enjoyed. There was also a huge amount of stress on the job, which I carried over to home. If you find that your job is causing you undue stress – especially if it’s affecting your family life – think about how you can make a change. Maybe a slight schedule change or shift in responsibilities is all you need. Revisit your goals and consider whether your current position is leading you in the right direction. Is it good stress (motivating), or bad stress (weighing down)?

Re-evaluate your finances

If you’re dealing with financial stress, take a realistic look at your finances. Make a budget and stick to it. Figure out ways to cut back on your spending so that you can put money away for a rainy day. Seek out other ways that you can make income, without adding to your stress. Having a financial “cushion” can really help to alleviate money-related stress.

Take care of yourself

It’s so easy to get wrapped up in taking care of everyone else that you forget to care for yourself. Eating and sleeping well can do wonders for the stress in your life. Don’t just feed the fruits and veggies to your kids – add them to your diet as well! Aim for well-balanced meals as often as you can. Regular sleep (at least 7 hours a night) is so important for stress reduction and your overall health. Remember, you need to rest between stressful events, to prevent your stress from becoming “bad”. Your kids aren’t the only ones who need a strict bedtime!

We’re all amazing moms in our own right. So hey amazing mom: give yourself a break! If you want to be an amazing mom, chances are, you’re probably already there. Here are a few other things that amazing moms (like you) do.

Exercise

Your body releases certain hormones and chemicals during exercise that help with stress reduction and help to boost your mood. Fit some regular exercise or yoga into your weekly schedule, and notice the difference it makes in your life. 

Do things you enjoy

Remember that you’re more than just a mom, wife, or a (insert career title here). You’re a woman with your own interests. It’s important to regularly participate in activities that you enjoy. Take on activities that help you feel rested and relaxed. Participate in the activities that help you to bring out your best self. 

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Get Support

Stay in touch with family and friends who can support you when you need it the most. Set aside time on a regular basis to reconnect with those you love. Sometimes you just need someone to watch the kids while you take a mental break. If your stress is becoming too overwhelming and affecting your everyday functioning, reach out to a mental health professional for help. This way, you can learn ways to manage and reduce the stress in your life from a professional. 

Change your perspective

You may not be able to completely get rid of the bad stress in your life, but you can change your perception of the things that are stressing you out. If you’re facing a rough time in your life, think about the good that can come from it. Think about the lessons you can learn. Focus on how the situation can make you stronger in the long run. Shift your mindset, and think about the strengths you already have that’ll help you make it through this time in your life. See these stressors as challenges instead of things that will derail you. This is key to turning your bad stress into good.

Life can throw a lot at you as a busy woman. So many things can stress you on a regular basis. We all need a healthy amount of good stress in our lives to keep us motivated and moving forward. But, it’s so important to recognize the bad stress in your life and deal with it before it really starts to take its toll.

Here’s to less stress for us all!

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Dr.Petra McEwan
I believe in women and the power we hold as loving wives, nurturing mothers, and productive members of the workforce. I'm a Wife, Mom, and Pediatrician who strives to help fellow working women balance their many roles, while providing reliable info in Pediatric Medicine over at Wifey Mommy Doc. In my spare time, I'm a professional boogie-wiper, boo-boo kisser, cuddler, chef, laundry connoisseur, house-cleaner, secretary, chauffeur and just about anything you can think of to my hubby and 5 kids.

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