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Myth busting stress

Written by: Christine Olivier

1. Stress makes you sick.

Yes, chronic stress can result in serious health impairments such as burnout and other forms of fatigue and depression.

However, stress per se is neither positive nor negative. Stress releases additional energy so that you can, for example, fight or flee in a dangerous situation, and it is basically a resource that we can use.

Short-term stress boosts us, can help us to reach high performance, and even improves our immune system.

The problem of our modern times is that we are rarely stressed because of real danger but due to situations that we perceive as stressful. We often feel stressed by deadlines, conflicts, the workload, and the like, and we fail to switch to relaxation when the danger has passed, as there never was a real threat.

2. It is the external circumstances that stress me out

We all probably don't like hearing this, but that statement is not entirely true.

In fact, only 10% of our stress response is caused by the stimulus - and 90% is how we react to it. This explains why the same stimulus can cause stress to one person whereas another person is completely unaffected by it.

We all process stimuli differently. Our perception is evolutionarily based on mistakes, negative experiences, etc. – in other words, potential dangers. In addition, we all have an evaluation scheme in our head that we developed growing up. Here are strong beliefs, thoughts that we are so used to that we think they are part of our personality. These include beliefs like “I have to be perfect”, “I shall show no weakness” and many more.

Given we hold 90% of our stress triggers, this also means that we have great leverage and that we can actively influence that external stimuli. For example, focusing specifically on our successes and not only on what didn't work out or becoming more aware of our belief structures loosening these up a little.

3. Women are more susceptible to stress

What sounds a bit like a bad, chauvinistic joke unfortunately has an element of truth.

Studies in the US and Germany show that women suffer more from the negative impairments of stress, state more often that they feel stressed and unfortunately also develop more stress-related illnesses.

Various explanations have been found for this. Women tend to make higher demands on themselves and are therefore harder on themselves. They also devalue their performances more than men and subsequently are more pessimistic about their possibilities in challenging situations.

In addition, women talk more often about how they feel than men - i.e., about the effects of stress - and usually seek help earlier, which means that they appear more in the stress statistics.

Furthermore, the share of household tasks still seems to be unevenly distributed to the detriment of women.

All that can give some explanation to the somewhat surprising results of the studies – most likely it is a combination of more than one of the factors mentioned above.

4. Stress helps you to lose weight.

Short answer? Nah!

Our brain is “selfish” on the glucose distribution inside the body and tries to ensure its own energy delivery during stress reactions – and will trigger an urge to eat glucose

That means that many people develop an appetite for high-fat and high-carbohydrate foods due constant stress.

You are more likely to gain weight than to lose it due to stress.

So please don't consider stress as a good strategy to lose some pounds.


Meet the Author

Christine Olivier - Stress Coach


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