How is Stress Good for You?

When you take it in the correct measure and view it from the right lens (3 min read) Issue #79

In the last three decades, the correlation between stress and health has received increased attention and recognition. As a result, people tend to associate stress with various adverse consequences such as heart attacks, hair loss, and premature mortality amongst others. However, it is worth noting that while excessive and prolonged stress can indeed harm health, not every kind of stress is detrimental. Therefore, it is essential to distinguish between different types of stress and their effects on health.

Not all stress is bad

To thrive, we actually need some stress to feel purposeful, and alive.

Graphic from Precision Nutrition

Exceeding the limits in either direction will make you feel unpleasant.

How do you find your “Stress Sweet Spot”?

Stress that persists over a long period, is unremittingly demotivating. It is associated with depression, anxiety, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, stroke, cancer and more. If you are experiencing stressors like worrying about money, disagreements with your partner or being yelled at by your boss amongst others; it is important to identify the areas in which you have control and make efforts to reduce or avoid them whenever possible. Additionally, seeking assistance from professionals can make a significant difference in dealing with stressors and prevent you from feeling overwhelmed.

Short manageable stress intervals with opportunities to recover can build resilience and strength over time. This type of stress can be empowering as it helps you grow rather than break you down.

Research1 indicates that your perception of stress significantly impacts how stress affects you and your health. If you view stress as inherently negative and something to be avoided at all costs, you may tend to stay within your comfort zone, fear the future and potential outcomes, and avoid situations that have the potential to foster growth. Moreover, this negative outlook on stress increases the likelihood of experiencing the adverse health effects of stress, such as elevated cortisol levels. Unfortunately, this creates a self-fulfilling prophecy where stress becomes more harmful.

However, if you believe that stress can make you stronger, wiser, and more resilient, you will be more inclined to take an active role in solving problems, embrace challenging experiences, and derive benefits from stress in your life.

Luckily, you can have some control over your perception. Here are some instances that demonstrate how stress can enrich various aspects of life:

  • Stress can strengthen relationships: Healthy relationships require some level of conflict to enhance understanding and promote growth. By resolving issues together, we can deepen our bonds.

  • Stress can enhance intelligence: If managed effectively, stress can help you focus your attention, plan for future challenges, and improve memory and learning. You might even find stressors to be enjoyable puzzles to solve.

  • Stress can improve physical fitness: While this may be the most evident example, intermittent physical stress, such as that induced by exercise, paired with proper recovery, helps the body become stronger and more capable.

By choosing to believe that stress has the potential to benefit you, you can learn, grow, and lead a more fulfilling and adventurous life.

Conclusion: Remember, stress doesn’t have to be your enemy. By processing it in a healthy way, you can unlock its hidden benefits and emerge stronger, wiser, and more resilient. So the next time you find yourself facing a stressful situation, take a deep breath and remember: you have the power to choose your response.

In the next issue of Good Vibes, I will be talking about How to find your Stress Load & the steps to address it.

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May 7, 2023

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