What is Stress, And Why Is There So Much of It?

Modern life is a fascinating paradox. We are surrounded at every moment by devices, tools, networks, and systems that are all designed to make life easier for us. A huge number of tasks that consumed lots of time and energy for former generations have become incredibly simple or even nonexistent for us today. And yet we seem to struggle more than ever, particularly in the office environment, with an elusive problem called stress. Why haven’t all of these technological advances led to the elimination of stress for us? Here’s a little bit about stress, what it is, why it’s such a problem today, and most importantly, what we can do to minimize it in our lives.

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Stressing the Positives

When we talk about stress, it’s important to note that stress itself—like the sensation of pain—is not an inherently negative thing. Rather, it’s your body’s way of registering an external influence and pushing your brain to respond to it. If your skin didn’t feel pain when you touched a hot stove, your brain wouldn’t respond by pulling your hand away. Likewise, if you didn’t feel stressed when you were confronted by a threatening situation, your brain wouldn’t “kick into high gear” and focus on the problem to find a quick solution.

So stress in itself is a very positive tool for our bodies to have—it’s what pushes your brain and body to perform at higher levels than they are normally capable of when you’re in a dangerous spot. If you’ve ever been involved in an auto accident or similar emergency, you may have looked back on the event later on and been surprised that you were able to do what you did to get out of the situation as quickly as possible. In large part, you probably have stress to thank for that burst of strength.

Too Much of a Good Thing

When we talk about stress today, though, we are most often talking about situations that are not life-and-death in nature. In the office, for instance, you may say that you feel stress all day long due to impending deadlines, difficult customers, contrary co-workers, misunderstanding managers, malfunctioning technology, and any number of other minor and major complications to your work. While stress is highly beneficial to your body in short bursts, it is not intended to be a near-constant state of being! If you always feel that you are being confronted by difficulty and your body is constantly pushing you to perform at higher-than-normal levels, there will inevitably be physical and mental consequences, as your body and brain simply get worn out.

New technology often imposes higher expectations

Common Stressors

So back to our original question: If we have access to so many great technologies and tools to make our jobs easier, why don’t we feel less stress than our predecessors, rather than more? A big part of the problem is that the very existence of those powerful tools creates the expectation, for better or worse, that we should be able to do far more than our less technologically equipped ancestors. After all, while your grandfather had to use a desk-bound rotary phone to make sales calls, you now have a compact smartphone with access to the Internet! Surely you must be able to triple your sales in comparison.

Another important stressor is the “learning curve” involved with figuring out how to use these often-complex tools in the first place, and with later learning the more advanced nuances of them for greater efficiency. That new project management software that the company just bought promises to make your life easier, but first it will make it a lot harder as you try to quickly train your brain to think and work in different ways.

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Are There Answers?

As with any problem, there are certainly solutions to the issue of excessive stress in the modern workplace. Some are more in-depth than others, but understanding even the small “quick fixes” can help you make it through the day, week, month, and year without suffering physical consequences like headaches, a weakened immune system, and just feeling tired every time you’re not functioning with a stress-induced burst of energy.

Perhaps the greatest weapon you have against the negative effects of stress is awareness. When you understand that your stress is your body’s response to what it perceives as a dangerous situation, you can improve your mental state by reminding yourself that your work environment isn’t really a life-or-death situation that demands those high energy bursts. Taking some time to calm yourself down, remember what the stakes of that sales call or team meeting really are, and put things in perspective can really help you lower your stress level and make it through the rest of the day without developing a headache!

How Stress Balls Help

There’s a good reason that you see cheap stress balls displayed on tables everywhere at a trade show or professional conference. One of the most effective, quickest ways to bring down your stress level during a busy day is channel that energy into a physical action. Squeezing a stress ball gives your body an outlet for the energy that it’s built up as a response to your day’s stressful interactions, helping you quickly get back to normal, breathe more deeply, and revisit the task at hand with a clearer head.

Using custom stress balls in your organization’s next sales campaign or during the upcoming conference season is a very good way to provide a useful tool to your customers, sales leads, and business partners while also reminding them on a constant basis that you are there when they need you. For decades we’ve been imprinting high-quality stress balls for our clients, and we would love to introduce you to our best-selling, most stress-relieving designs. Browse our catalog and place your order today!

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