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Stress - friend or enemy?

It seems that there are more and more people who feel burned out. Often, the root cause is so clear: stress. But is stress really that bad for us? Let's have a look at this topic from different angles.

Stress is harmful to the body

When we are stressed, our bodies produce adrenaline and many studies have shown that people who suffer from stress have a much higher probability of getting severe illnesses and even dying.

Just as example: I am experiencing what it means to have a parent with severe dementia. It is shocking to see what happens to a human who not so many years ago was a successful general manager of a company, with all the stress linked to it. I would like to avoid having the same fate when I turn that age.

But stress can knock us out in much younger years as well. Burnouts are shockingly common and getting more and more common every year. Especially for people in their thirties.

Stress helps us perform

Yes, absolutely. Imagine how much adrenaline must be flowing through the veins of professional athletes. They beat competitors, they deliver performance under great pressure, they break world records.

In an office context, we probably don’t knock out colleagues in the boxing ring on a daily basis (though we all know some who would deserve it day by day). Our high performance is usually mental. Our brains make up two percent of our body mass and yet they burn 25 percent of our daily calories.

Working with a deadline, presenting in front of a group, speaking to someone from a much higher hierarchy… all stressful activities. And the adrenaline in our bodies helps us to deal with them.

Stress is a business reality

We will not be able to completely avoid stressful situations in our work lives. And probably we shouldn’t – a job that has no thrill sounds very boring, at least to me.

So let’s accept that our jobs include some stressful parts. It means we are having exciting scenes at work and we are boosting our performance in these moments.

We can in many cases mentally prepare before stepping into a stressful situation. There are many techniques you can read about online. I won’t list them here, so much has been written already about them. So much has been read about them as well. Maybe they are even worth trying!

Let’s still be realistic: they may not always work. But good news: once the damage is done and we suffered from stress during our work day, we can take actions to relax afterwards. A walk in the park. Listening to music. Chatting with a friend.

Be sure to make your coping mechanism a conscious decision. 

My conclusion is: stress is our friend AND enemy. How we deal with it is the key to stay healthy, both mentally and physically.