Can positive events cause stress? Let’s define stress, first.
Stress is your body rising to any occasion that poses as threat or demand (real or imagined) on your physical or mental well-being.
Anything that causes a demand on your physical and mental well-being can stress you. Therefore, positive things like weddings, vacations, promotion at work, birth of a child or even relocation to “the abroad” can be potential stressors.
The excitement from these activities create a state of tension that is palpable. Remember, how you felt when you received an email notification from a scholarship program you applied for. Even if the email showed that it was a positive feedback, chances are your muscles were tense, your heart was somewhat elevated, you were intensely focused and engaged as you read through the entire email.
This is stress, and this is how you interact with something exciting.
The Holmes-Rahe Life Stress inventory created by psychiatrists Thomas Holmes and Richard Rahe, list 43 life stressors. The list consists of both positive and negative experiences. In this article, I will discuss just 5 of the positive life events that can cause stress and how to handle them
1. Marriage: This is the seventh cause of stress according to the inventory. While this is usually a celebratory event, it can wreak havoc on one’s psyche. The reality of losing your independence, having to start a new life with a partner, can create anxiety, making some people develop “cold feet”. For others, it is the fear of the actual ceremony – will the caterer show up in time and serve good food, will the DJ play the right mix etc.
Instead of getting yourself all worked up, remind yourself of why you agreed to your partner’s proposal, speak with couples you trust, get trusted vendors and most importantly, just relax.
2. Pregnancy: This is a time of many changes – body, family and emotions; and termed the 12th cause of stress according to the inventory. If it’s your first time, your curiosity may get you worrying about what to expect during labor and birth or how to take care of the baby. If you work or own a business, this new change in your life will lead to adjustments in how you manage your tasks and team e.g preparing your team for when you take maternity leave.
To reduce stress during pregnancy, pay attention to the triggers that make you stressed and notice what happens when you feel stressed; slow down, rest and don’t put too much pressure on yourself; talk to someone you trust about your concerns and how you’re feeling; practice yoga, meditation; and accept people’s offers to help you
3. Son or daughter leaving the home for college or marriage reasons: This is the 22nd cause on the list. When your child is leaving for school or being married off, you experience a potpourri of emotions. The joy that they are making progress in their life and also that sad feeling from the reality that your one time “baby” is all grown up can create some form of positive stress on you.
To reduce this kind of stress, make effort to build a life with your spouse, so that when your kids have to go it won’t take a hard toll on you.
4. Outstanding personal achievements: Although the news of a job offer or big promotion or a scholarship award is usually exciting. Concerns over the expectations of your new boss or the new role, dealing with the new learning curve and acclimatizing to a new environment can be a lot to take in. It is listed as the 25th stressor on the Stress Inventory.
To overcome this stress, first remember that for you to have gotten this achievement, they saw that you have what it takes- so don’t doubt your abilities; and most importantly focus on progress rather than perfection
5. Major holidays: Holidays like the Easter celebration, Sallah, Christmas, and other National days, provide an avenue for us to step out of our usual work routines and spend some quality time with family and friends for a few days or weeks and relax. However, in addition to this fun time, we still get a considerable amount of stress. One of the biggest sources of stress during these holidays, especially for us women, is expectations – both from others and from ourselves. We often feel pressure to bake, shop, decorate and host parties. Having to do so much for a lot of people (spouse, children, relatives and friends) over a short period of time, while our bank accounts are draining is a huge source of stress.
Here are a few tips to handle the stress: outsource some of the activities on the to-do list, find ways to engage the kids, learn to say “No” and create blocks of time to actually relax, otherwise the holiday would soon be over and you didn’t get any holiday rest.
How have you managed stress from the above positive stressors?