How Stress Can Improve Your Well-Being
Everyone experiences stress. It’s a ubiquitous part of modern life. We stress over our jobs, our families, our social lives, our education, our health, our finances – the list could go on and on. It seems that everyone is on a never-ending quest to eliminate stress from their lives. Would a completely stress-free life be a good thing? Surprisingly, the answer is no – some stress is good stress.
Good stress or eustress is temporary worry and tension that accompanies challenging situations or activities which remain within our abilities to handle. Think of a series of concentric circles, like a target. The first is your “comfort zone” – here there’s no stress because you are fully confident that you can succeed at anything that crops up. Now imagine another circle beyond the first, which represents your “capability zone” – you’re out of your comfort zone, so you’ll experience stress, but expectations of what you can manage are realistic. Beyond your capability zone is where you experience negative stress or distress – so far out of your comfort zone that your abilities no longer match what’s needed to face a particular challenge. The limits for each of these zones are different for everyone. Where public speaking or riding a roller coaster might be fun activities that create a buzz of excitement for one person, they may be terrors for someone else, who would be overwhelmed with distress if they attempted them.
The key is finding that sweet spot where you can step out of your comfort zone in order to feel the satisfaction of successfully learning a new skill or overcoming a challenge without slipping into negative stress.
Eustress has a number of benefits, particularly for well-being in general:
On the other hand, the effects of distress are harmful, especially when experienced chronically. Negative stress:
Stress is not inherently bad, but in order to take advantage of maximizing eustress in your life, there are three key behaviors to strive for.
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When it comes to brain development, time in the classroom may be less important than time on the playground.
“The experience of play changes the connections of the neurons at the front end of your brain,” says Sergio Pellis, a researcher at the University of Lethbridge in Alberta, Canada. “And without play experience, those neurons aren’t changed,” he says.
It is those changes in the prefrontal cortex during childhood that help wire up the brain’s executive control center, which has a critical role in regulating emotions, making plans and solving problems, Pellis says. So play, he adds, is what prepares a young brain for life, love and even schoolwork.
But to produce this sort of brain development, children need to engage in plenty of so-called free play, Pellis says. No coaches, no umpires, no rule books.
“Whether it’s rough-and-tumble play or two kids deciding to build a sand castle together, the kids themselves have to negotiate, well, what are we going to do in this game? What are the rules we are going to follow?” Pellis says. The brain builds new circuits in the prefrontal cortex to help it navigate these complex social interactions, he says.
Learning From Animals
Much of what scientists know about this process comes from research on animal species that engage in social play. This includes cats, dogs and most other mammals. But Pellis says he has also seen play in some birds, including young magpies that “grab one another and start wrestling on the ground like they were puppies or dogs.”
For a long time, researchers thought this sort of rough-and-tumble play might be a way for young animals to develop skills like hunting or fighting. But studies in the past decade or so suggest that’s not the case. Adult cats, for example, have no trouble killing a mouse even if they are deprived of play as kittens.
So researchers like Jaak Panksepp at Washington State University have come to believe play has a very different purpose: “The function of play is to build pro-social brains, social brains that know how to interact with others in positive ways,” Panksepp says.
Panksepp has studied this process in rats, which love to play and even produce a distinctive sound he has labeled “rat laughter.” When the rats are young, play appears to initiate lasting changes in areas of the brain used for thinking and processing social interactions, Panskepp says.
The changes involve switching certain genes on and off. “We found that play activates the whole neocortex,” he says. “And we found that of the 1,200 genes that we measured, about one-third of them were significantly changed simply by having a half-hour of play.”
Of course, this doesn’t prove that play affects human brains the same way. But there are good reasons to believe it does, Pellis says.
For one thing, he says, play behavior is remarkably similar across species. Rats, monkeys and children all abide by similar rules that require participants to take turns, play fair and not inflict pain. Play also helps both people and animals become more adept socially, Pellis says.
And in people, he says, an added bonus is that the skills associated with play ultimately lead to better grades. In one study, researchers found that the best predictor of academic performance in eighth grade was a child’s social skills in third grade.
Another hint that play matters, Pellis says, is that “countries where they actually have more recess tend to have higher academic performance than countries where recess is less.”
The NBA announced an expanded set of mental health policies for 2019-20 on Wednesday, according to The Athletic’s Sam Amick.
The league office reportedly issued a memo to all 30 teams, announcing the following measures required by each team for the upcoming season.
The NBA’s changes come after a slate of players revealed their battles with mental health both before and during their time in the league. Kevin Love and Keyon Dooling wrote personal essays on the matter for The Player’s Tribune. DeMar DeRozan discussed his own battle with depression with the Toronto Star’s Doug Smith.
Commissioner Adam Silver discussed the league’s emphasis on mental health in February.
“When I meet with (NBA players who have expressed concern on this front), what strikes me is that they’re truly unhappy,’’ Silver said at the Sloan Conference in Boston. “A lot of these young men are generally unhappy.”
A lot has been written about mental health in the workplace and the risks of sharing a mental illness with coworkers or employers. September is National Suicide Prevention Month–an important time to address the unfortunate, widespread stigma that still exists about mental health and psychotherapy in America. Studies show that when everyone thrives in the organization, the organization thrives. But much more needs to be done to educate employers and employees about mental health wellness and suicide prevention.
Some experts go so far to advise you to be careful about what you tell your boss because it could cost you your job. Yet when you’re facing a difficult emotional crisis, your employer’s understanding and support is a huge relief, especially if you’re having trouble functioning at your usual standard. Companies and employees alike harbor misguided notions about what really goes on in a practicing psychotherapist’s office, many of which come from novels or television. Psychotherapists are often portrayed as incompetent hacks, more disturbed than their clients. Some scenes are good, some bad and others downright comical. There are numerous myths about psychotherapy that continue to show up in the written word, on the screen and in the workplace. Here are ten of the most common ones:
Before talking with someone you are concerned about, have suicide crisis resources available, such as the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline number, 1-800-273-8255 (TALK), or numbers and addresses of local crisis lines or treatment centers.
Mention what signs prompted you to ask about how they are feeling. Mention the warning signs that prompted you to ask the person about how they are feeling, the words used, or behavior displayed (signs make it more difficult to deny that something is wrong).
Ask the Question. Ask directly about suicide. Ask the question in such a way that is natural and flows over the course of the conversation. Ask the question in a way that gives you a “yes” or “no” answer. Don’t wait to ask the question when the person is halfway out the door. Asking directly and using the word “suicide” establishes that you and the at-risk person are talking about the same thing, and lets them know you are not afraid to talk about it.
Ask:”Are you thinking about killing yourself?”
“Are you thinking about ending your life?”
How NOT to Ask the Question”You’re not thinking about killing yourself, are you?”
Do not ask the question as though you are looking for a “no” answer. Asking the question in this manner tells the person that although you assume they are suicidal, you want and will accept a denial.
Validate the Person’ Experience:
Talk openly. Don’t panic. Be willing to listen and allow emotional expression. Recognize that the situation is serious. Don’t pass judgment. Reassure that help is available. Don’t promise secrecy. Don’t leave the person alone.
Get HelpShare available resources with the person.
Be willing to make the call, or take part in the call to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 (Talk). The toll-free confidential Lifeline is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.Let the person know that you are willing to go with them to see a professional when they are ready.
If you feel the situation is critical, take the person the closest Emergency Room or call 9-1-1.
Do not put yourself in danger; if at any time during the process you are concerned about your own safety, or that the person may harm others, call 9-1-1.Never negotiate with a person who has a gun, call 9-1-1 and leave the area. If the person has done harm to him or herself in any way, call 9-1-1.