Thursday, April 20, 2006

Six Myths About Stress

This post looks at the myths that surround the subject of stress. As is often the case, dispelling myths can lead to greater understanding. Thanks to the American Psychological Association for these.

Myth 1: Stress is the same for everybody.

Completely wrong. Stress is different for each of us. What is stressful for one person may or may not be stressful for another; each of us responds to stress in an entirely different way.

Myth 2: Stress is always bad for you.

According to this view, zero stress makes us happy and healthy. Wrong. Stress is to the human condition what tension is to the violin string: too little and the music is dull and raspy; too much and the music is shrill or the string snaps. Stress can be the kiss of death or the spice of life. The issue, really, is how to manage it. Managed stress makes us productive and happy; mismanaged stress hurts and even kills us.

Myth 3: Stress is everywhere, so you can't do anything about it.

Not so. You can plan your life so that stress does not overwhelm you. Effective planning involves setting priorities and working on simple problems first, solving them, and then going on to more complex difficulties. When stress is mismanaged, it's difficult to prioritize. All your problems seem to be equal and stress seems to be everywhere.

Myth 4: The most popular techniques for reducing stress are the best ones.

Again, not so. No universally effective stress reduction techniques exist. We are all different, our lives are different, our situations are different, and our reactions are different. Only a comprehensive program tailored to the individual works.

Myth 5: No symptoms, no stress.

Absence of symptoms does not mean the absence of stress. In fact, camouflaging symptoms with medication may deprive you of the signals you need for reducing the strain on your physiological and psychological systems.

Myth 6: Only major symptoms of stress require attention.

This myth assumes that the "minor" symptoms, such as headaches or stomach acid, may be safely ignored. Minor symptoms of stress are the early warnings that your life is getting out of hand and that you need to do a better job of managing stress.

Today, I'm feeling good, managing my priorities without feeling overwhelmed. How about you?

*Adapted from The Stress Solution by Lyle H. Miller, Ph.D., and Alma Dell Smith, Ph.D.
*Original posting at American Psychological Association


Traci said...

Today I have all of my parents crap in my house that was already full of crap! My overwhelmed feelings are pretty high because now I have to figure out what to do with it all! : )

Actually my stress level is much lower since we finished at my parents house last weekend and I don't have to go back there again! Someone told me last night that I look a bit more peaceful now. WooHoooo!

As always, a timely and informative post. Thank you my dear.

Medicow said...

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star firstbaseman said...

Interesting - I always wonder how other people deal with this stuff.

Reiki said... i am feeling bad, i couldn't even begin to figure out priorities and i am completely overwhelmed. how about you?

Cathy said...

I have a co-worker who is always stressed and shows it in a very obvious way. I fnid this annoying because she has no children, and in my mind has relatively little to be stressed about, compared to many other people I work with who hold themselves together. I know this is wrong of me, but I really do find it frustrating and yes, annoying, to hear her constant groans and sighs....your thoughts?

Dreaming again said...

I like this.

I get frustrated when people try to tell me that my life must be overwhelming when it's not. Stressful, yes, overwhelming

It is worse in the telling/writing than the living, for a number of reasons ..A ...they're not me, so they don't know how I feel and B... they're hearing/reading everything at once ..

I absorbed the stresses that accumulated over time. Situations happened individually or in sets not all at once.

Yes, there have been times that I have been stressed out and wondered how I was going to make it ...but over all ... my life isn't over the top like people imagine.

As a family:
We laugh more than we cry.
We play more than we work.
We celebrate more than we mourn.

I guess using your metaphor of the violin ...we've found a way to make music from our stressors.

Dr. Deborah Serani said...

Dear Traci,
You have been going through so much. As with everything in life, it is a balancing act. Now that you have things out of your parent's home, that's done. But NOW you have them in your home. So now what. TAke small steps and now that this difficult task will get done. The trick is not to tax your body and your psyche.

Dear Medicow,
I'll be visiting shortly.

Dear Star,
My stress level went from good to moderately awful because of an emergency family crisis. At least my morning was okay. Now I have to prioritize the rest of the day. I know the beds and the laundry will not be done, and dinner will be a take in pizza. Good thing I am off from work today.

Dear Jane,
As I just said above, I started the day great, and then it went south. I am pretty good about deligating and prioritizing in moments like this....could that help you in some way. Oh, and chocolate. It's a must in stressful times. The rest of my Reese's peanut butter egg from Easter is next to me as I type.

Dear Cathy,
There are many of us who can juggle alot, and then there are those whose ability to deal with ordinary things is hair-raising for them. I don't know if this woman realizes how much she drones on about her issues....for me, it would stick in my craw too. I have often tell such friends and coworkers this, "Okay, enough of the bad, what was GOOD today. I need to hear THAT!"

Dear Dreaming,
"As a family:
We laugh more than we cry.
We play more than we work.
We celebrate more than we mourn."

I love this. And you are right, when someone learns of your life in one sitting, they MAY perceive it incorrectly. But I'm sure you help them see their distortion.


Ian Lidster said...

"No symptoms, no stress" is for me the most telling point. For too many years in my life I used alcohol to mask my stresses and stressors, and it worked, until it didn't any longer. When I quit drinking about a decade ago I found, much to my amazement, one area of stress diminished radically, and at the same time I was able to objectively look at my stressors and act on them appropriately. Am I stress-free now? Of course not, but my coping mechanisms have improved vastly. Thank you, Dr. Deborah for the insights you offer with your blog. You do a nice service. Also, thank you for visiting mine. You are always welcome to visit. Ian

alan said...

Such logic, yet until you see it written out, most would never occur to you! Thank you so much, for this and everything else you share with us!


Heidi said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Heidi said...

What perfect timing..As you know Deb I don't deal with stress very well...That 7 pounds I lost last week due to stress etc ,5 of them are back on. It's incredible how stress can wreck havic with your body and mind..I have to learn a different mind set on how to deal with it. I suppose another book will be added to my self -help book

Another great entry..TY.

Dawn said...

ah, stress-it should be a 4 letter word cause it's bad,bad,bad.

i am virtually stress free, now that i'm off 'till monday afternoon-yep-lovin'life right now :)

i hope everything is ok, with your family emergency crisis.

scrappy rose said...

Wow... thinking about an alternative to stress. I think I juts accept it as a part of day to day living.

mysti said...

Another great post. Thanks for sharing. I am trying hard to manage my priorities so I am not overwhelmed. It is still a work in progress.

Kim said...

I want to post this at work - just the six myths and the reference (I'm on tonight). I was feeling so stupid that I could not deal with 12 hour shifts like my colleagues. That my back ached or I got headaches.

Ha! No more of that!

CrackerLilo said...

Today I posted about the kind of stress I give myself. I hate causing myself problems and torquing my own self up!

I saw this in WebMD today, if you're interested.

Thank you for all you do to keep us informed!

healthpsych said...

Great post. Lots of misconceptions about stress, particularly that it's always bad. Also, in terms of stress management techniques, it's important, as you noted, that it's not a 'one size fits all' approach. Some find it hard to do relaxation and meditation because, when stressed, it's difficult to shut out those voices that remind us we should be doing something else. Failing at those techniques can add further to the stress!!
It's a matter of experimenting and finding the approach that fits best.

jumpinginpuddles said...

ok do you think having five kids run around as im trying to reply to this blog stresses me , that and can i go on computer now as i really wish i could disentangle computer and slam it over sons head and say you are in the computer now ;) alas not to be. DAMN RIGHT IT DOES as i leave my chair and try to negotiate the stres pool to which i am sucked into. Stress is diff for everyone stress for me is ******************* you work it out ;)


Dr. Deborah Serani said...

Dear Ian,
I try to blog about things that can generalize well to other readers. I am a teacher at heart, really. BTW, one of the main characters in my fiction novel is named Ian.

Dear Alan,
Everything in writing looks easy, lol. It is hard to put things into action. I know that personally AND professionally! But, the key it to keep trying.

Dear Heidi,
Stress is not an easy thing to master, by any means. I like to look at each day as a separate entity. I look at the good and bad of the day, deal with what I can, and hope that the next day will present with less stress. Most days it days, other times it doesn't.

Dear Dawn,
Isn't it GREAT when you can feel so liberated and free when you are away from work. Long weekends, and vacations should happen more often! I like the European vacation calendar. I think it is months long! Enjoy your time ;)

Dear Scrappy,
It *is* part of everyday living, just as you said. Sometimes we need to prioritize and manage it better.

Dear Mysti,
I am a work in progress too. I like defining myself that way.

Dear Kim,
So much of research points to that how we APPROACH life sets the stage for how our life is. I believe that so much. I hope you can de-stress things. Your profession is a very important one, and one that also is taxing on the person. Nurses rock. I am a HUGE nurse fan.

Dear Crackerlilo,
I try to do the same. And I read that post and it seems to ring true in the research. And on TV, you'll see alot of diet ads hyping the stress-weight gain trend. Good link, thanks for sharing it.

Dear Healthpsych,
Welcome to the blog world. I visited you and see that you just started. You are right that it is important for each person to find what uniquely works for him or her. Good luck in your studies, and visit again!

Dear JIP,
You have FIVE children???


Godwhacker said...

Great post Deb ~ and a classic example of why you are such a SOB(Successful and Outstanding Blogger)! The more readers this blog gets, the better the world becomes.

difficult patient said...

Great post--I can relate to number five!

Miranda said...

Good post. My life is nothing but stress. lol I do try and manage it, but with all the weird circumstances I cant seem to get away from it. If one part of my life is going good, the other is going down. Balancing it all is stressful.

So some days I just throw my hands in the air and say "Oh well" This too shall pass.

Lol yeah if I keep telling myself this it may work. That, and if I can get over the not having to please the whole world I'll be good.

Donna said...

Great post, Deb :)

I try to keep my stress levels down (both good and bad stress) because it really affects me. For example, school can be both a good and bad stressor; the upcoming move is the same thing. I just have to remember...breathe in, breathe out ;)

A Flowered Purse said...

I am one of those who is easily stressed. Kinda like the big stresses never get resolved, so the little stresses, really send me for a hard time.
Can stress really make your stomach and stuff act up? i have heard stress can do all sorts of things, but i guess i dont full understand how stress can make you feel bad.
Have a wonderful weekend Dr deb

Miranda said...

Interesting comments on here as well. I know for me my physical reactions from stress are anything from headache, IBS, excema flareups to anxiety attacks and insomnia.

Im not sure if you are aware of an herb called Holy Basil,(its an herb from India) but I've found that that stuff is amazing. When I feel alot of stress I take one of those, chew it (and its gross) but within about 15 mins Im totally calm.

Sunnie Dee said...

Thanks Deb, This information was really useful and I have shown it to some friends.


Carolina Introvert said...

Dr. Deb, you have a fiction novel? Is it published?

I need my stress - without it, I'm a slug. I'm happiest when I am juggling 100 things at one time and wondering how I will ever get them all done.

jumpinginpuddles said...

yes deb ages 9 , 8 , 5 , twins 4 lol thought you knew that

healthpsych said...

Thanks for the welcome and the visit, Deborah. Nearly finished the study - just the thesis and a few more internship day outstanding. I have been reading your blog for a while and find it very informative but have only just had the nerve to jump in myself!
I'm interested as to what you find to be the most useful strategies in handling stress among your patients.

Dr. Deborah Serani said...

Dear Godwhacker,
You are an SOB too. Hope you are well.

Dear DP,
So glad you found this helpful. When I saw it, I had to post it.

Dear Miranda,
A professor once said to the class, "If there is no stress, than you must be given the either or of it, take the stress and learn to deal with it." Interesting way of looking at it

Dear Donna,
Breathing deeply is a great way to help deal with stress. We often breath incorrectly when we are under stress, so long deep breaths help us to find our balance.

Dear Dianna,
Stress can cause havoc with your body. YES! Hope you have a good and stressless weekend. x0!

Dear Miranda,
Stress hits me in my hands. I get really sweaty palms, I sigh alot and then if I can't manage the stress, a headache will surely follow. Oh, and I eat chocolate too. Gotta try Holy Basil. I'll start looking for it!!

Dear Sonnie,
So gret. Hope you and yours have a great weekend.

Dear Carolina,
My fiction book is in the editing stage. Will let you know if it gets a publisher! I know some people who function very well with stress. It propels them instead of derails them. It's so good that you can do all that you do :)

Dear JIP,
I remembered that you had twins, but I forgot about the others!!!!

Dear Healthpsych,
The first things that I look at is if a person is using caffeine. That's gotta go if he or she is doing that. Stress and caffeine are not a good mix. I then look to tailor and narrow the stressors in their lives. We build in a way to delegate, prioritize and even forgo certain things, so an equilibruim can find its way back to them again. Excersize is essential too. So I guess I look at a bunch of things....nutrition, physical, orgianzational, personal, behavior and psychological. What about you?


Dreaming again said...

Dr. Deb ... you take my coffee from me ...and you're gonna see stress ......;)

(however, thanks to Topomax for headache prevention, my coffee intake has gone from 4 POTS a day to 3 or 4 cups a day .... )

healthpsych said...

Thanks for your feedback. I do pretty much the same.

What I find with some of my patients is that when they think about caffeine, they think only about coffee. They consider other sources such as tea and *fanfare* chocolate! And let's face it, I know I hit the chocolate when things get stressful!

Other things include avoiding the tyranny of the shoulds...and that can be a hard thing for some to let go of. I find breathing exercises quite successful but, as I mentioned before, have had less success with other relaxation exercises.

We've been trying mindfullness training and that has been proved beneficial but there's a long lead in with that...people seem to take a while to get into the practice.

Dr. Deborah Serani said...

Dear Dreaming,

LOL, okay, I promise, I won't.

Dear Healthpsych,
I like your approaches!


dragonflyfilly said...

right now, for me anyway, there is GOOD strees and BAD stress, and in addition, i am not able to handle much BAD stress at the moment, and i know what i have to do to avoid it.(like some friends who are demanding my "ear" so they don't have to fix their problems - by not answering the phone i avoid the stress of having to listent to them, but then i have a little niggly feeling that i am a "bad friend", but that feeling is certainly the lesser of the two stressors) ...

also, i am avoiding writing and publishing "serious" posts on my Blogspot, as i am not sure what they are going to bring up for me...still i have a feeling they have to be done for my own therapeutic reasons...and sometimes even doing nothing can cause stress...stress of indecision...

thanks, another very good article, Deb.
cheers from sunny Vancouver

Nancy said...

What an excellent post Deb. Stress is so different for everybody, yet very valid and real.

I get stressed when I am overwhelmed by too much to do on my to dolist. Making it through a day like that, makes me feel good and sometimes I need that little kick in the ass!

Thanks for posting this Deb. Hope you are enjoying your weekend.


Fallen Angels said...

Bleh...stress. Count me as one of those who handles stress poorly, gets lots of physical and emotional symptoms of overload...and let's just leave it at that!

Cathy said...

Thanks, Deb; Great advice (as always:)

Wendy C. said...

For me, the first sign of stress is that I just can't seem to get anything spinning my wheels in the mud.

Dr. Deborah Serani said...

Dear Dragonfly,
There is good and bad stress. As with everything, balance balance balance. Not that it's easy, but that should always be the aim.

Dear Nancy,
Stress is a buster, for sure! Hope you are doing well too :)

Dear Fallen,
The body takes the hit, with so many emotional things. I know it too.

Dear Cathy,
Love what you have in your blog too!

Dear Wendy,
Yup, "The Fog" is what I call it.


phred said...

I sometimes feel like my stress is slowly killing me. On a bad day, it causes my blood pressure to rise to the point I just don`t feel good.
I sold off some business interest last week just to eliminate the hassle. I really didn`t want to sell.
Is this a way of dealing with the do away with some of the cause? Is eliminating the source going to lessen the stress?? Really??

Dr. Deborah Serani said...

Dear Phred,
I absolutely think it will. Carrying too much, whether it's emotional, physical or financial can feed the stress monster. It's good that you are paring down. I hope you feel the emotional and physical benefits of your choice soon. Stress DOES NOT rock!


dragonflyfilly said...

Hi Deb,
Phred might like to get a copy of Michael Gerber's The E Myth Revisited...or he could visit his web site:

Michael Gerber is one of the business "guru's", and i think the main thrust of his message is that you need to love what you do to be successful, but you also have to know your limits, i think he would proably say that the amount of stress that Phred is experiencing is not only not good for his health, but it is not good for the health of his business.

anyway, just a thought, Phred, if you want to check out this source.


Anonymous said...

Is there any evidence that stress is medically harmful?

ken nielsen said...

The last comment was not meant to be anonymous. I may not be stressed, but I seem to have fat fingers.

Dr. Deborah Serani said...

Dear Dragonfly,
Good resources.

Dear Ken,
YES! Stress can be medically harmful. And I make typos ALL the time!


That Girl said...

What I really dont understand is that my doctor was reluctant to give me valium for 2 days yet was willing to put me on a perscription for anti-depressants that he indicated would be a long-term venture.
It was a 2 day stress period, I medicated myself (with some pain meds I had left over) and voila - when the two days was over I was stressed no more.
And yet somehow this is more reprehensible than a long-term taking of anti-depression meds?
It makes no sense to me.

SkyeBlue2U said...

Dr. Deb. :) "Thank you so much for your nice comment. Things are better this week. What a difference a day makes! Have a Wonderful Weekend! Skye. :)

SkyeBlue2U said...

oh, it is good to have a Best Friend.

Dr. Deborah Serani said...

Dear That Girl,
Hmmm....the only thing that I can think of is that valium can be extremely addicting.


Dr. Deborah Serani said...

Dear Skye,
So glad :)

SkyeBlue2U said...

I like your new picture very light and summer-ry looking. :)

Dr. Deborah Serani said...

Dear Skye,
Yup, new photo. Makes me look more my age. The other photo make me look younger, I thought.