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Debunking 10 Myths about stress

Mental-health experts Stephanie Cook and Teresa Leyro debunk 10 myths about stress on Science insider


1- A stress-free life is the best life 

A little bit of stress is inevitable, but oftentimes that's a good thing. Stress helps you meet your daily challenges and motivates you to reach your goals, ultimately making you a smarter, happier and healthier person

New research by Kaufer and UC Berkeley post-doctoral fellow Elizabeth Kirby has uncovered exactly how acute stress – short-lived, not chronic – primes the brain for improved performance.

In studies on rats, they found that significant, but brief stressful events caused stem cells in their brains to proliferate into new nerve cells that, when mature two weeks later, improved the rats’ mental performance.

Stress hormones help adaptation – after all, remembering the place where something stressful happened is beneficial to deal with future situations in the same place

both acute and chronic stress affect memory, and since the brain’s hippocampus is critical to memory. Neural stem cells are a sort of generic or progenitor brain cell that, depending on chemical triggers, can mature into neurons, astrocytes or other cells in the brain. The dentate gyrus of the hippocampus is one of only two areas in the brain that generate new brain cells in adults, and is highly sensitive to glucocorticoid stress hormones

Corticosterone (green hexagons), a glucocorticoid hormone related to stress, stimulates astrocytes to release FGF2, which triggers the generation of new neurons from neural stem cells.
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it was also found that nerve cell proliferation after acute stress was triggered by the release of a protein, fibroblast growth factor 2 (FGF2), by astrocytes — brain cells formerly thought of as support cells, but that now appear to play a more critical role in regulating neurons. The FGF2 involvement is interesting, because FGF2 deficiency is associated with depressive-like behaviors in animals and is linked to depression in humans


2- You should shield kids from stress

In small amounts, stress is good to expose children to. It teaches them to find coping mechanisms and tools to overcome stressful situations. We all have to learn stress management and learning at an early age will allow for us to become better at managing stress as well as building self- regulation. We have to learn stress processes and how to handle stress when we are young. Benefits of stress for children include:

Learning how to tolerate distress

Learning self regulation

Develop adaptive coping tools

It is good to make sure you are there to let them know you are there supporting them and and acknowledging their emotions whilst allowing them to work through the stress on their own. We want to raise resilient children. The way to raise resilient children is to really let them learn how to deal and work through stressful moments. This goes a long way as far as development into adulthood.


3- Taking a vacation will cure burnout 

you are preventing that burnout within the moment, But when you get back home, all those feelings and emotions come flooding right back. Burnout is not just a singular moment of exhaustion, but more of a prolonged form of stress AND exhaustion. It can be caused by a variety of stressors that take place over time and can build up. According to Smith’s (1986) cognitive affective model, burnout develops as a result of chronic exposure to stress as a result of a long-term perceived inability to meet situational demands. Just like a jar, you can only fill it so much to where it overflows, burnout is that moment where that jar is overfilling and can no longer contain what it was holding.

Consequences Associated with School Burnout (Gardner, 2014)

  • sleep deprivation

  • change in eating habits

  • increased illness due to weakened immune system

  • difficulty concentrating and poor memory/attention

  • lack of productivity

  • poor performance

  • avoidance of responsibilities

  • loss of enjoyment

There are three stages of burnout:

Stage One- Milder Symptoms

  • Mental fatigue at the end of the day

  • Feeling unappreciated, frustrated, or tense

Stage Two – Longer lasting symptoms

  • More challenging to reverse symptoms

  • Disillusionment about the job

  • Feeling bored, apathetic, or frustrated

  • Feel ruled by a schedule

  • Intermittent periods of psychological/physical symptoms that last even when the provoking situation subsides

  • Psychological symptoms

    • Irritability, aggression, anxiety, depression, substance abuse, and suicidal thoughts

Stage Three – Severe

  • Chronic symptoms

  • If left untreated, can evolve into psychiatric and physical health disorders

  • Severe personal consequences

    • Substance dependence

    • Shorter life expectancy

    • Divorce

    • High job turnover

But Don't worry, there are a few methods you can do to prevent burnout from happening and cap the lid to that jar so it does not overfill:

  • Early recognition of burnout and related risks

  • Cultivate ability to self-reflect

    • attend to your own needs

    • realign goals and expectations for yourself

  • Complete a periodic assessment and realignment of goals, skills, and work passions

  • Exercise regularly

  • Eat a well-balanced, healthy diet

  • Get enough sleep

  • Include daily enjoyable “timeouts”, such as yoga, a hobby, or meditation

  • Build up your professional and personal support system

These can help you create emotional regulating tools you can incorporate day to day to help manage the stress. Mindfulness is a huge help to settle down and breath to take some of the stress.

Calm has really helped me. I use often on days I feel overwhelmed and need. It guides you through and helps you destress and find balance.


4- "Just try not to think about it" 

When we are usually told NOT to think about something, we do right? It's hard not to when you are told NO. That goes for stress as well. When you are experiencing stress and told to not think about it, of course you are going to think about it. When we are trying not to think about something, we are more likely to think about it. If you actually think about something in a lot of detail you can bring down that distress that is associated with that thought. We always like to jump and hit that panic button right away, but if you sit on that moment and think through the details and asses, you can find more calm within the stressful thought. It's good to ask yourself,

Is this a thought or is this a fact?

This is called flexible thinking and cognitive restructuring.

Flexible thinking can consist of thought like:

Can I Challenge My thought?

How true is it?
Are there more helpful alternatives?

Is there an opposing perspective?

So its ok to think about the stressor, but don't forget to be a bit flexible in diving deeper into these questions and details. then We are more able to deal with that stressor and in that way we will then start to feel better.


5- Stress helps people work faster and better

It's easy to think that it's good and productive when you are under stress and that way you will get the job done faster, but when you are under stress, you are less likely to take the time you need and can find yourself making silly mistakes. It's not going to go well in the long term. Yes that current stress might make you work faster in the moment, but imagine yourself without that stress working in the same situation. You can find yourself having more clarity and in the long run, being more productive. It's good to assess the working condition you work best in. The whole idea is to reduce stress and improve the output and quality of your work.


6- Biting your nails when you're stressed is just a bad habit  

It's not just a bad habit. There's a physiological component to it. Sometimes nail biting can be out of boredom and being underaroused. It can all happen and sometimes we find ourself chewing our nails. There's some ways you can work to prevent nail biting:

understand that stressor

Wear nail polish *it can be clear

Wear gloves


7- Alcohol helps you de-stress 

Alcohol can alleviate stress initially and make you feel good in the moment. But alcohol can also hinder your sleep and cause poor sleep that can lead to the next day being harder to handle and a prolonged fatigue that can make it harder to handle stress. Its OK to have a drink once in a while, but prolonged drinking consistently over time can actually increase the likelihood of developing problems of anxiety and dependance. You want to develop long term adaptive techniques to cope with stress. one way that can help you with getting away from the worry of future stress is to work to be in the present moment. find something in the NOW to focus on like a brain game, journaling, or physical activity. You can even call a friend to catch up of hop to the kitchen and cook or bake something.


8- Stress is always bad 

It really depends on the context and our interpretation of it. Stress isn’t always a bad thing. It’s a natural, physical response that can trigger our fight-or-flight response. Stress can increase our awareness in difficult or dangerous situations, allowing us to act quickly in the moment. Without it, humans wouldn’t have survived this long! Little bouts of stress teach us adaptation and helps us create tools to manage stress. There are two types of stress:

Good Stress vs. Bad Stress

"Good stress," or what psychologists refer to as "eustress," is the type of stress we feel when we are excited. Our pulse quickens and our hormones surge, but there is no threat or fear. It keeps us feeling alive and excited about life.

Another type of stress is acute stress. It comes from quick surprises that need a response. Acute stress triggers the body's stress response as well, but the triggers aren't always happy and exciting. This is what we normally think of as "stress" (or "bad stress"). Acute stress in itself doesn't take a heavy toll if we find ways to relax quickly.

Chronic stress is another form of bad stress. It occurs when we repeatedly face stressors that take a heavy toll. This is that prolonged stress that we want to work to find good coping mechanism to prevent stress building over time.


9- Stress eating is no big deal 

Sometimes when we are stressed, we can find yourself eating more. From a physiological standpoint, stress causes your adrenal glands to release a hormone called cortisol. When this happens, you may notice an increase in appetite and a desire to eat sugary, salty, or fatty foods.

However, this urge to eat isn’t the result of an empty stomach. Instead, it’s your brain telling you to eat so you can prepare for a potentially harmful situation. Typically, the stress subsides and cortisol levels return to normal. Stress-eating is also associated with uncomfortable emotions. So it is a bigger deal as far as creating a healthy relationship with food. Stress eating can also lead to eating fast and cause stomach disruptions and malabsorption to where your body has more difficulty absorbing and getting nutrients. Your gut can then have issues and over time, energy levels can decrease which can make dealing with stress a bit more challenging.

Some ways you can prevent stress eating:

Know your stressors

Are you aware of your emotional eating triggers? Knowing the stressors that cause you to reach for food is the first step toward stopping stress-eating. This begins with checking in with yourself. Before you head to the kitchen, ask yourself if you’re eating because you’re hungry or if it’s a response to something else. Each time this happens, identify what you’re responding to and make a note of it. This can help you determine which situations trigger stress eating.

Remove common offenders from the kitchen

Most people can name the foods they reach for when responding to stress. After identifying your

stressors, the next step is to remove go-to foods, especially if they’re high in sugar, heavily processed, or high in fat. This involves eliminating the foods and snacks you reach for when stressed from your kitchen, your desk at work, or your car. Replace them with more nutritious options that can help curb hunger when you’re feeling stressed.

Replace stress-eating with other activities

It’s not always possible to avoid food, though. When stress is high and food is nearby, you need to find other ways to take the edge off.

Here are some ideas to try:

  • Take a 10- to 15-minute walk.

  • Practice 3 to 5 minutes of diaphragmatic breathing (aka belly breathing).

  • Drink a glass of water. Infuse it with your favorite fruit to add flavor.

  • Call or FaceTime with a friend or family member.

  • Write in a journal.

  • Flow into a few stress-busting yoga poses like Standing Forward Bend, Butterfly Pose, Triangle Pose, or Legs-Up-The-Wall Pose.

  • Grab an adult coloring book and your favorite crayons or pens and de-stress with creativity.

  • Listen to a guided meditation.

  • Read a chapter or two in a book or do a crossword puzzle.

  • Keep your hands busy with a hobby like knitting, drawing, building, or squeezing a stress ball.


10- PTSD only affects soldiers and people in war zones

Historically a lot of the work we have done to understand trauma and PTSD has been with our armed forces and veterans. The first term for it was 'Shell Shock'

However Post Traumatic Stress Disorder can rise based on intimate partner violence, tragedies or disasters, and also PTSD can be diagnosed based on things we might not seen as a traumatic event but it causes much stress to that individual. There's a few diagnostic criterias to note for PTSD: Exposure to a traumatic event, reliving the trauma, avoidance of situations that remind, and alterations in cognition and emotions.


Yes talking about stress can possibly be a bit stressful, but think of it as a natural natural process. It has help us survive and become who er are. It's good to identify the good and bad stressors and work to find tools that work for you to relieve the extra stress and build resilience towards. We all experience stress and sometimes it's not ideal, but community and the support that surround you are a big factore. Zwift has been a great place to find community and support for me and many others.


To that, awareness and talking about topics like these are really helpful to bringing yourself to think and understand why we do and react to some things the way we do. We love this community that surrounds us here. As always,

Be Kind, Do Fearless

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1 Comment

Marianne Mason
Marianne Mason
Feb 28, 2022

Great topic. My husband is under significant amt of stress at his job. This topic provided some great reminders for me, in how I can be more supportive. Especially now that I’m retired & he is still working.

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