The Importance of Stress


Alan White

This week’s blog title might seem a little odd at first. Why would anyone claim that stress is important? Stress is linked to negative consequences for both mind and body and can have detrimental effects on people. However the importance of stress and stress management is very important to living a fulfilling life. Without a healthy amount of stress in our lives we would not be motivated to do anything and therefore would not survive.

At a time in the lives of our young people facing into the junior and leaving cert exams, the importance of understanding the importance of stress management and using stress in a positive way is very important.

Stress is something that we all have in our lives. It can be both positive and negative. We all need a little positive stress so that we are motivated to achieve our goals and to survive in the world. However when we allow stress to build up, it can have a negative impact on us both physically and mentally.

Stress is caused by the survival instinct present in all animals which allows them to survive. This is more commonly known as the “fight or flight” response. If you have ever watched a nature documentary on TV, you might have seen Zebras grazing when suddenly danger is sensed and the herd run for safety. This is the fight or flight response. When the danger is over the zebras don’t spend time afterwards thinking about what happened, they simply go back to grazing once the danger has passed.

However with humans, we have the ability to remember, reflect and think about the experiences we have had. Traumatic experiences that cause us stress, such as feeling overwhelmed are remembered and this stress, if not managed, can build up in us and cause us difficulties. However if managed correctly, stress can not only help us to survive but also a healthy amount of stress can help us to thrive.

It is important to remember a number of things in relation to stress:

  • Stress is part of modern day life, and it pops up in all areas of our lives. We cannot eliminate stress, but we can learn different ways to recognise stress and how to better cope with it.
  • Stress is caused by things that happen in our lives and our reaction to these things. For example, when you have exams coming up and you feel overwhelmed by the amount of work you have to do. This causes stress.
  • Stress can be both a positive and negative experience and we all experience it in different ways. Stress is actually good for us as it helps us develop and become more resilient. If we do not experience stress or are not allowed to experience failure sometimes in our lives, we may not learn, develop and become more resilient.
  • We all experience challenges and stresses in life; ups and downs are normal. We all have day to day difficulties that are a part of daily life like stress, grief, feeling down, or being worried.

To manage our stress, especially at busy times in our lives, it is important to develop some skills which help us to manage our stress. This can be different for all of us. But certain things such as regular exercise, getting enough sleep, eating a balanced diet and taking time out to switch off and relax can all help. It’s important that we take the time to do this and encourage our young people from an early age to understand and learn how to manage stress.

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