Thursday, July 18, 2024
featured storyHEALTH

Right amount of stress can be good for you

Stress has a bad reputation, when we talked about, usually bad things come to mind: anxiety, burnout, and overall negative health effects are associated with it. Chronic stress is indeed dangerous and pretty bad for your health, but not all stressful events are created equal.

Stress affects lives in different ways, and while too much for too long is usually harmful, it turns out that just the right amount of stress can actually be good for people!

Stress can make your brain grow. A 2013 study on rats found that a brief stressful situation (the animals were stuck in their cage for a few hours) doubled the growth of new brain cells and improved memory.

It is possible that the same happens to humans. The right amount of stress has an impact on alertness and performance, and the growth of new brain cells might play a role here.

“If we appraise the situation as challenging but manageable, then the arousal helps us focus and direct effort toward addressing the challenge,” pointed Bethany Teachman, PhD, a professor of psychology at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville.

Stress may help improve your memory

If an event is stressful, you’re more likely to remember it. Experiencing moderate stress can help you remember a specific situation. This has been very important for our evolution as a species. If you remember a dangerous situation, you’re more likely to avoid the same situation in the future.

“Biologically, the exposure to moderate stress causes an increase in the generation of specialized cells that participate in memorizing the stressful event,” says neuroscientist Daniela Kaufer, PhD, acting associate dean and professor at University of California, Berkeley.

Stress can boost your energy

Good stress, known as “eustress,” can give you a boost of energy. This positive form of stress can arouse your body and mind. Have you ever been through a stressful situation and felt sharp and energized? This would be a challenging yet exciting situation, such as performing on a stage or starting a new job.

This type of stress actually creates new neural pathways and stimulates endorphin release (feel-good hormones).

Stress might be good for your immune system.

While chronic stress can be a killer, the right amount of eustress can actually stop you from getting sick. According to a study, manageable levels of life stress may enhance psychobiological resilience to oxidative damage.

Stress might be good for your children

Being pregnant can be stressful at times, but the good news is that occasional acute stress is not necessarily a bad thing for the fetus. In fact, a study has found that “mild to moderate levels of maternal psychological stress during pregnancy may actually enhance fetal maturation.”

While the common stresses of daily modern life are unlikely to affect your kids’ development, chronic stress, on the other hand, can indeed be harmful.

Stress can help you focus

Yes, the right amount of stress can get you “in the zone.” Think of things such as running a marathon or taking an exam–these are stressful events that will make you focus and perform.

Short-term stress will help you focus on the task at hand, and channel your energy towards one direction. This is why some people work better under pressure. Think about a work or school deadline. Many people work better if they have limited time to finish a task.

Stress can make you feel more confident

Your heart racing before speaking in public? The rush of chemicals in your body? These are all mechanisms triggered by stress that are actually designed to make you succeed.

The difference is that they can be triggered by distress or by eustress. The latter will make use of these stress responses instead of them just being a result of you feeling overwhelmed. Good stress will give you the confidence to take on bigger challenges. “If I can do x, then I can do y.”

Stress can make you accept change more easily

Stress can make you less fearful of change. When you can go through stressful events and overcome them, you see that change is not a bad thing, that you can actually deal with it, and even thrive!

Stress can help you deal better with…stress

Stressful events can make you better adjusted to cope with stress in the future, and help ease its negative effects. You will better know your coping resources, consequently making you less stressed about certain events.

If you experience stressful events, you will learn from them and develop coping mechanisms. In short, you will know that if the same thing happens again, you can deal with it.

Stress can make you more resilient. Exposure to stressful events can help you develop a sense of control, which will make you better prepared to deal with future stressful events.

Stress can make your life feel more meaningful, when you overcome a stressful event, you feel like you have accomplished something and, therefore, your life will feel more meaningful.

Not experiencing stress can hold you back, constantly experiencing low levels of stress might make you less likely to take risks, and to try new things, including achieving some of your goals.


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