A Stress-Free Life Doesn't Necessarily Mean A Healthy Life

14/10/2015 8:16 PM AEDT | Updated 15/07/2016 12:50 PM AEST
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Happy beauty woman in hat is back opened his hands, relaxes and enjoys the sunset over the sea on the beach

Being crazy-busy, stressed and anxious is nothing new these days.

We’re wired into multiple devices, jump between meetings, emails and texts while mentally checking off to-do lists. And we do this in a way that treads a thin line between staying afloat and burning out.

As a result, we’re incredibly time-poor (or so we think) -- and heck, do we like talking about it.

But stress isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Sure, there are good and bad stresses -- but just as we have good and bad thoughts -- it’s the way these stresses and thoughts are harnessed that makes the difference.

“Stresses and our stress response has a function, it helps us survive,” Lindsay Oades, wellbeing expert and associate professor at the Melbourne Graduate School of Education told The Huffington Post Australia.

“The problem is if the stress becomes prolonged, then you get damage to the body and vulnerability to the immune system,” he said.

According to 2014’s Stress and Wellbeing survey, one in four Australians reported moderate to severe levels of distress.

However rather than approaching stress as good or bad, Oades said we should be thinking in broader terms and instead be talking about how to increase the positive (general wellbeing) as opposed to reducing the negative (stress).

“We should be promoting positive functioning -- so feeling calm, being mindful, feeling joy, coping with events and successfully dealing with challenges,” he said.

“The body responds to stress in a number of different ways -- there are physical, psychological and physiological components -- but in the same way, when it is in states of joy or relaxation there are a number of different things happening due to the release of hormones like oxytocin,” said Oades.

“You could be doing nothing and have no stress whatsoever, but that doesn’t necessarily mean there is positive functioning -- which is required for general wellbeing."

At the foundation of positive functioning is sleep.

“There is an increasing amount of evidence of the importance of sleep for our cognitive function, workplace performance but also how we treat our health during the day,” said Oades.

“If we don’t get enough sleep, our eating and exercise often deteriorates."

And while eating a balanced diet is important at a day-to-day level, Oades said we should also be eating according to our energy levels which means avoiding things like caffeine and alcohol late at night.

Another key factor in positive functioning is movement -- which doesn’t necessarily mean exercise but rather avoiding remaining still for long periods.

“We’re not moving enough during the day, we have long periods of stillness and that’s where pedometers have become useful and important,” said Oades.

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