Four Stressful Myths About Stress

Sometimes it seems like we swim through a sea of stress. But don’t let these myths about stress make your life even more difficult.

We’ve all faced our fair share of stress, from the cranky boss to the rigors of illness–and we’ve heard plenty of myths about stress, too. But how do we separate the fact from fiction? Well, let’s take a closer look at what we think we know about stress.

Myth #1: All stress is bad for you.

Actually, this is one of those quasi-myths, with valid arguments on both sides. While we’re pretty sure that not all stress is killer, there are a few nagging studies suggesting otherwise.

Many researchers point to something called “eustress,” which they define as positive stressors that stimulate and motivate you. For example, sex and exercise may produce stress hormones, but they’re usually good things. The stress of not having a job can spur you to get out and hustle before you starve.

Other researcher’s aren’t sure that stress is ever good (as opposed to stimulation), since most leading causes of death derive from stress. Furthermore, stress contributes to 75% to 90% of all medical conditions, depending on whom you ask.

But then, the difference between “stimulation” and “stress” may be a matter of splitting semantic hairs. Stress for me may be stimulation to you.

Myth #2: No symptoms means no stress.

Just because you don’t see the smoke doesn’t mean there’s no fire. You may simply not notice, or it could be that medication for one condition or another has masked your stress symptoms. If you live a busy, exciting life and seem surprisingly free of stress symptoms, look closer–just to be sure.

Myth #3: Minor symptoms don’t matter.

So you get headaches and stomachaches more often than you should. It’s not like you’ve had a stroke or something, right?

If you keep it up with that attitude, you may end up with a stroke–or an ulcer. Rather than ignore the small symptoms, like headaches, stomachaches, and constant irritation, take them seriously. These are your body’s way of telling you something’s wrong, but you’ve still got time to chill out and fix it.

Myth #4: You’re going to have stress no matter what you do.

Not necessarily. While you can’t control what other people do, and you’re going to get sick sometimes, you can certainly control your own behavior. If you know that a particular action stresses you out, avoid it. Don’t climb a mountain if you fear heights, for example. Stay away from your mother-in-law if she bugs you.

Over and Out

Stress isn’t always a choice (another myth some people like to spout), but you can certainly decide what to believe and what not to. Before accepting these myths about stress as truths, take a closer look at the facts.