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Feelgood Health

Mythbusters: myths and facts on stress

26 March 2023

Welcome to the AXA Feelgood Health Mythbusters: Stress edition!

Stress is very common, it’s our body’s response to feelings of pressure or threat. It’s something everyone feels at times and can be triggered by a variety of circumstances within the following areas: your personal life, friends and family, employment and study, housing and money.

Everyone experiences stress differently and our ability to cope during stressful times really depends on our genetics, personality and circumstances. If you experience high levels of stress over a long period of time this could lead to mental and physical exhaustion, something commonly known as burnout.

There’s a lot of varying advice on the internet, so our Feelgood Health Mythbusters are here to help separate fact from fiction. To do this we’ve engaged the help of our very own Mental Health Consultancy Lead, Eugene Farrell, to give you some useful tips, confirm some facts, and bust some surprising myths to give you the tools you need to better manage your stress levels.

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Stress myths

“Alcohol will ease stress”

MYTH! Alcohol can have a calming effect on our mood and increase feelings of euphoria. Having a drink to help your stress is a quick but deceptive fix. Alcohol affects the chemicals in your brain meaning more negative feelings will start to take over. Alcohol stops your neurotransmitters in your brain from working properly - these are the chemicals that send messages from one nerve to the other. This will have a negative impact on your health and wellbeing. Alcohol also lowers our inhibition and may result in doing things that we may regret or could be dangerous. 

Some healthy ways to relax are doing some gentle exercise, like a walk, having a relaxing bath or taking time for a hobby. Getting outside and spending time in nature can really reduce stress and anxiety levels too. Check out our article on the mental health benefits of spending time in nature for more tips and tricks to help you manage your stress. 

“Stress causes grey hair”

MYTH! It has long been said that high stress levels can cause your hair to turn grey, however this is not supported by research. The pigment responsible for hair colour is produced less as people age, meaning age is the leading factor of causing grey hair, as well as genetics. 

Stress is not a large factor in developing grey hair, if at all. So, you might have to blame your Nan or Grandad for you salt and pepper locks! 

“Only adults experience stress”

MYTH! Like adults, children and teenagers also experience stress, in fact stress is extremely common among teenagers. Stress can show in several ways, these signs are important to spot as children and teenagers don’t always have the words needed to describe how they are feeling. 

Stress could show in irritability and anger, being more argumentative than normal, changes in behaviour, trouble sleeping or changes in their eating. Some causes of stress in children and teenagers could be; tension at home, big life changes – like a divorce or moving to a new house or school stresses like making friends, getting along with teachers and reaching grades.

Stress and anxiety go hand in hand, so if you fear your child is experiencing feelings off stress contact your GP. Also take a look at our article on anxiety in children to help your child manage their stress. 

Facts about Stress

“Stress can’t be avoided”

FACT! Stress can come from any aspect of your life. It could be from being under a lot of pressure (at home or at work), feeling out of control, having responsibilities that leave you feeling overwhelmed or during times of uncertainty. Stress can make us feel anxious, irritable and really affect our self-esteem, so it’s important to find your triggers and explore ways to manage this feeling. 

Incorporating exercise into your day – even going for a walk round the block in the fresh air can help! Take time out for yourself to do something you enjoy or do nothing at all! Try to get a good night’s sleep, and ensure you eat well, avoiding stimulants like alcohol and coffee.

“Stress causes medical problems”

FACT! There are many ways stress can display itself physically, this could include: stomach or digestive problems, headaches that can cause nosebleeds and chest pain. The knock-on effects of stress could also cause panic attacks, problems getting to sleep and muscle tension.

If you are continuously feeling stressed, and don’t put anything in place to help you manage the strain, stress could contribute to serious medical problems like heart disease, high blood pressure and mental disorders like depression or anxiety.

Everyone experiences stress differently, so at times it can be hard to tell if we are feeling stressed, or it could take some time to understand what is causing this feeling. 

Ensure you take time for yourself to do something you enjoy that relaxes you – even going out for some fresh air for a few minutes can ease your feelings of stress. If you are finding these feelings are on-going reach out to your GP who can support and advise you on ways to manage your stress. 

“Stress can motivate you”

FACT! Heightened stress can leave you feeling really overwhelmed, which leads to a decrease in your motivation. However medium levels of stress, also known as eustress, or positive stress can kick-start our motivation. 

Stress gives you an increased sense of urgency, and can push you out of your comfort zone, towards reaching your fullest protentional. This can also teach you the best way to manage and overcome stressful situations in life, which will help you in the future when you experience unexpected stress.

Managing your stress levels can contribute greatly to your Feelgood Health, so whenever your stress seems to be getting too much, try and do something calming to bring it back down again. If you are suffering please speak to your GP on how you can move forward. Be sure to look at our mental health hub for more tips from our experts that can help you on your journey to managing your stress.