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3 myths about stress

Debunking some common incorrect beliefs

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MYTH 1: STRESS IS A MENTAL ILLNESS

Stress is our primitive, innate, automatic survival mechanism that gets triggered by perceived threats; stress is the very reason why we are on this planet today. Defining stress as an illness could not be further from the truth! Stress becomes a problem when chronic, because it starts causing a multitude of physical issues and mental struggles, affecting our normal functioning. Stress per se is not an illness, but long-term persistent stress that is unhealthily managed can lead to illness.

MYTH 2: STRESS ONLY AFFECTS WEAK PEOPLE

As mentioned above, everyone experiences stress, simply because it is built in our primitive brain. Being stressed has nothing to do with being weak, it simply means that our brain works! There are some people that are more likely to be stressed, which does not make them “weak”, but more prone to it. For instance, having had an adverse childhood and upbringing is a risk factor for being more vulnerable to experience stress in adulthood. Traumatic events and severe and/or chronic illness are also correlated with higher probability of stress.

MYTH 3: WE ALL REACT TO STRESS IN THE SAME WAY

It is very important to know and recognise how stress manifests in ourselves, and what our main triggers and vulnerabilities are, in order to become better at managing it. However it is also important to realise that what we know about us does not necessarily apply to others. Each individual has different emotional and behavioural reactions to stress. Even physically we have different vulnerabilities, think for example about people suffering from sharp stomachache vs. others who get skin rashes when under a lot of stress. Some people get angry and aggressive, others withdraw and isolate themselves. Stress causes an automatic physiological reaction which is identical in all people, but how individuals react can be deeply different depending on a variety of factors.

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