We have talked in this blog about different ways that stress is bad for you. And all that talk can probably make you more anxious and stressed. But worrying about stress isn’t always a good thing because being stressed actually has some benefits. So let’s change it up a little bit and answer the question, how is stress good for you?
Stress becomes a problem when we have suffered for a long period of time and we no longer have control over our circumstance, our in other words when it is chronic.
Researchers have studied ways that exposure to moderate amounts can actually make you stronger and better able to manage stress. Quite like the same way getting a vaccination, which contains a little bit of the bug, can actually make you immune. Richard Dienstber wrote a book on building stress resistance and he theorized that experiencing some manageable stressors and the receiving breaks can
- makes us more mentally stronger
- helps us become physically tough and
- allows us to be less bothered by future stress
Some studies by Professors Seerys and colleagues at UCLA also concluded: “In moderation, whatever does not kill us may indeed make us stronger.” (Seery et al., 2010, p.1025).
Benefits of stress
So as we can see stress is not always bad for you, it is actually a normal function of the body. It is our bodies warning system that produces the fight or flight response. Think about it, when you are stressed about what to make for dinner, you don’t break done and do nothing, you are motivated to figure something out.
Here are a few ways short-term anxiety can actually be good for us.
- You may be better able to tolerate and adapt to life’s difficulties because a little stress can make you tougher.
- You may learn a new skill, such as patience, you can use later in life by going through some moderate stressors.
- You may gain confidence in managing stress, maintaining “if you faced something difficult in the past why wouldn’t you be able to face other difficulties”.
- You may be more likely to accept change.
- You may have a more positive attitude toward stress altogether, knowing how it may have helped us grow.
- Experiencing stress may help you to want to take reasonable risks, making you more like to reach your goals in life and relationships.
- It helps boost brainpower because manageable amounts of stress increase performance and alertness. Also, the growth of stem cells is encouraged which improves memory.
- A study conducted by a Stanford University School of Medicine scientist has tracked the trajectories of key immune cells in response to short-term stress and traced, in great detail, how hormones triggered by such stress enhance immunity.
- A 2006 John Hopkins study showed that pregnant women who experience mild to moderated amounts of stress had children her were born with better motor and developmental skills by the age of 2 than those who experienced no stress.
Though stress helps us survive, too much of it is still detrimental to the body. Chronic emotional stress or stress stays around for weeks or months can weaken your immune system and cause high blood pressure, fatigue, depression, anxiety and even heart disease. In particular, too much adrenaline can be harmful to your heart. Symptoms may include rapid heartbeat, high blood pressure, anxiety, weight loss, excessive sweating, and palpitations.
Signals of Too Much Stress
Knowing the difference between good and bad stress may not always be possible, but there are warning signs when you are experiencing too much stress that you should look out for. Watch out for these following symptoms:
- Inability to complete task, concentrate, feeling overwhelmed
- Body aches
- Other illnesses flare up
- Trouble sleeping staying awake
- Change in appetite
- Avoiding others
- More angry or anxious than usual
- Frequent colds
What You Can Do
Though stress is an inevitable part of everyone’s life it isn’t something we have to stress about. There are ways to improve how you deal with stress and you can even remove some of the negative stresses in your life. By looking at the positive and understanding why you stress you can be better prepared for future stress and it can be easier to cope. If looked at in a positive way stress can be helpful and used as a growing tool that helps you mature.
Check out our article on managing stress for more tips.
If you have some experience with good stress, let us please talk about it in the comment section below. Sharing your experience will help others. Any feedback is always welcomed.