We are constantly bombarded with statistics regarding the harmful effects of stress on our health, both mentally and physically. We know that stress is one of the leading contributors to 8 of the most life threatening illnesses, including cancer, heart disease, strokes and contributes to many chronic diseases and anxiety-related illnesses. I even wrote a book, “The Teacher’s Ultimate Stress Mastery Guide” that teaches how to prevent and eliminate stress from one’s life.
So, with all of the warnings about keeping our stress levels low, is there any stress that is actually good for us? The answer is “absolutely!” The key is the level or amount of stress in your life, because there is point for each of us, when our stress level moves beyond healthy to unhealthy.
Since we lived in caves, the stressors in our lives served stimulate our nervous system to be vigilant and avoid dangerous situations, rather than have us passively sit back and get devoured by a predator. So, daily stressors keep us alert, motivate us and put us in the best position to succeed at tasks, as long as we keep them at a manageable level.
Think about taking an audition or performing on stage. If you are confident about your lines and acting ability, that stressor will pump you up and excite you about the experience you are about to engage in and the anticipated positive results. This feeling is similar to the effects of aerobic exercise.
On the other hand, if you tell yourself that you may forget your lines, or may be embarrassed by your upcoming performance, those thoughts will propel your stress level beyond healthy, toward threatening levels. You may feel weak-kneed, dizzy and begin to hyperventilate, with rising blood pressure. These sensations may be similar to those you feel when you are in a fit of anger.
Perception of the stressors in your life makes all the difference. It is noted by many researchers in the field that your stress level is 10 per cent what is happening to you at any time and 90 per cent how you interpret (i.e., what you say to yourself about) what is happening to you. When feeling nervous before an upcoming performance is interpreted as normal excitement, people perform much better than whey they tell themselves that the nervousness means they are going to have a problem.
Identify your stress levels.
So, picture a scale in your mind that ranges from 1 to 10. Stress levels below 3 will keep you relaxed and enable you to sleep, but such a level will not help you to perform your best. Levels above 7 will definitely keep you from performing your best. Consider a level between 4 and 6 to be your “power zone,” where you will be most efficient.
The key is learning to “dial back” harmful stress to manageable and healthy levels. The most efficient way to do that is to give yourself positive thoughts
about whatever situation you are in, anticipate and expect good outcomes, learn to breath slowly and deeply through your diaphragm (like singers and musicians do) and build aerobic types of exercise into your weekly regimen.
Doing these things will put you in the best opportunity to stay in your power zone, for life!