To most people ‘stress’ brings to conjures up unpleasant feelings. However, many of those in the field of psychology are of the opinion that stress is something that can have positive effects.
Why the disconnect?
Essentially the answers lie in how each individual person evaluates their own mental and physical well being.
Perhaps some examples could help to make bring this point home.
For instance, assume two people, one a championship caliber athlete or performer, the other a college senior about to take a final test. The athlete or performer has been training most of their life for tasks that they perform; and lets say in our case, the student has hardly cracked a book or studied at all for the impending test.
From a strictly a physiological point of view both individuals will be experiencing similar effects – raised heartbeat and breathing, higher metabolism, active sweat glands and so forth.
Psychologically, there are also similarities – increased concentration on the task at hand and focus on the next few minutes, clear images and heightened sensitivity to feelings.
However, there are key differences, at least psychologically speaking. The athlete is uses these feelings to their advantage to gain razor sharp focus, ready to tackle challenge, and confident in his ability to exhibit his prowess and dominate the contest.
The senior not so fortunate probably experiencing doubt and fear.
In either of the cases it’s reasonable to say that there is a definite element of stress involved. And one would also conclude that both individuals are feeling stressful.
It is the differences that are the key.
The athlete mentally processes his scenario as a challenge that he welcomes and is confident in his ability to tackle. One the other hand, the senior is well aware of the fact that he has poorly prepared and understands the ramifications his impending failure i.e. a lowered grade and possible having to retake the class.
In both cases the individuals are uncertain of the outcome, but each evaluates the odds of success differently… as would each also project the outcome of failure differently.
The athlete may wind up short of a victory or first place finish; which may be disappointing but still the overall picture is one of a successful season or performance.
The senior, on the other hand may see his chances for getting into a good graduate school slipping away. In fact, he may have to ultimately pass this class before he can even graduate.
Needless to say, the examples are very basic, but the premise is accurate.
How you process various events will leave you feeling stressed or simply one of lifes challenges that you know you can handle.
You can see by these two examples that there are actually two definitions of the word ‘stress’ that sometimes get interchanged.
One refers to a heightened awareness and the physiological symptoms described above.
The other is adds the element of worry and those symptoms.
The latter is the one that can have negative health consequences that under certain circumstances can even be physically harmful.
We as humans are tethered to both our mind and our body and the two aspects affect one another, the psychological part is just as important.