When Stress Is Actually Good for You

When Stress Is Actually Good for You

When Stress Is Actually Good for You

We rarely hear people say, “I’m really feeling stressed. Isn’t that great?” But if we didn’t have some stress in our lives—the “good stress” variety—we’d feel rudderless and unhappy. If we define stress as anything that alters our homeostasis, then good stress, in its many forms, is vital for a healthy life. Bad stress can even turn into good stress, and vice versa.

Good Stress vs. Bad Stress

“Good stress,” or what psychologists refer to as “eustress,” is the type of stress we feel when we feel excited. Our pulse quickens and our hormones surge, but there is no threat or fear.

We feel this type of stress when we ride a roller coaster, compete for a promotion, or go on a first date.

There are many triggers for this good stress, and it keeps us feeling alive and excited about life.

Another type of stress is acute stress. It comes from quick surprises that need a response. Acute stress triggers the body’s stress response as well, but the triggers aren’t always happy and exciting. This is what we normally think of as “stress” (or “bad stress”). Acute stress in itself doesn’t take a heavy toll if we find ways to relax quickly. Once the stressor has been dealt with, we need to return our body to homeostasis, or its pre-stress state, to be healthy and happy.1

Chronic stress is another form of bad stress. It occurs when we repeatedly face stressors that take a heavy toll and feel inescapable. A stressful job or an unhappy home life can bring chronic stress.

This is what we normally think of as serious stress.

Because our bodies aren’t designed for chronic stress, we can face negative health effects (both physical and emotional) if we deal with chronic stress for an extended period of time.1

Yes, you can add good stress to your life! Ideally, you choose activities and set goals that make you feel good, happy, and excited.

To gauge whether or not an activity is worth your time, pay attention to how the thought of it makes you feel.

Do you feel excited? Is it a “want to,” or a “have to”? Be sure your “want to” activities are all things you really do want to do, and your “have to” activities are all absolutely necessary.

Good stress can become bad for you if you experience too much of it. (Adrenaline junkies know this firsthand.

) This is because your stress response is triggered either way, and if you’re adding that to chronic stress, or several other stressors, there is a cumulative effect. Be in tune with yourself and acknowledge when you’ve had too much.

You may not be able to eliminate all stress, but there are often ways that you can minimize or avoid some of the stress in your life, and this can make it easier to handle the rest.

Not all forms of bad stress can become good stress, but it is possible to change your perception of some of the stressors in your life. This shift can change your experience of stress.

The body’s stress response reacts strongly to perceived threats. If you don’t perceive something as a threat, there is generally no threat-based stress response. If you perceive something as a challenge instead, the fear you would normally experience may turn into excitement and anticipation, or at least resolve. You can often make the shift in perception by:1

  • Focusing on the resources you have to meet the challenge
  • Seeing the potential benefits of a situation
  • Reminding yourself of your strengths
  • Having a positive mindset (getting into the habit of thinking an optimist)

As you practice looking at threats as challenges more often, it becomes more automatic, and you experience more good stress and less bad stress.

Overall, it’s important to have good stress in your life. Make an effort to cut out as much chronic stress as possible. Change your perception of stress where you can, and add positive activities to promote eustress. Together, these strategies help you create a healthy balance in your life.

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Source: https://www.stress.org/when-stress-is-actually-good-for-you

How Good Stress Can Add Excitement to Your Life

When Stress Is Actually Good for You

Hill Street Studios/Blend Images / Getty Images

We rarely hear people say, “I'm really feeling stressed. Isn't that great?” But if we didn't have some stress in our lives—the “good stress” variety—we'd feel rudderless and unhappy. If we define stress as anything that alters our homeostasis, then good stress, in its many forms, is vital for a healthy life. Bad stress can even turn into good stress, and vice versa.

“Good stress,” or what psychologists refer to as “eustress,” is the type of stress we feel when we feel excited. Our pulse quickens and our hormones surge, but there is no threat or fear.

We feel this type of stress when we ride a roller coaster, compete for a promotion, or go on a first date.

There are many triggers for this good stress, and it keeps us feeling alive and excited about life.

Another type of stress is acute stress. It comes from quick surprises that need a response. Acute stress triggers the body's stress response as well, but the triggers aren't always happy and exciting.

This is what we normally think of as “stress” (or “bad stress”). Acute stress in itself doesn't take a heavy toll if we find ways to relax quickly.

Once the stressor has been dealt with, we need to return our body to homeostasis, or its pre-stress state, to be healthy and happy.

Chronic stress is another form of bad stress. It occurs when we repeatedly face stressors that take a heavy toll and feel inescapable. A stressful job or an unhappy home life can bring chronic stress.

This is what we normally think of as serious stress.

Because our bodies aren't designed for chronic stress, we can face negative health effects (both physical and emotional) if we deal with chronic stress for an extended period of time.

Yes, you can add good stress to your life! Ideally, you choose activities and set goals that make you feel good, happy, and excited.

To gauge whether or not an activity is worth your time, pay attention to how the thought of it makes you feel.

Do you feel excited? Is it a “want to,” or a “have to”? Be sure your “want to” activities are all things you really do want to do, and your “have to” activities are all absolutely necessary.

Good stress can become bad for you if you experience too much of it. (Adrenaline junkies know this firsthand.) This is because your stress response is triggered either way, and if you're adding that to chronic stress, or several other stressors, there is a cumulative effect.

Be in tune with yourself and acknowledge when you've had too much. You may not be able to eliminate all stress, but there are often ways that you can minimize or avoid some of the stress in your life, and this can make it easier to handle the rest.

Not all forms of bad stress can become good stress, but it is possible to change your perception of some of the stressors in your life. This shift can change your experience of stress.

The body's stress response reacts strongly to perceived threats. If you don't perceive something as a threat, there is generally no threat-based stress response. If you perceive something as a challenge instead, the fear you would normally experience may turn into excitement and anticipation, or at least resolve. You can often make the shift in perception by:

  • Focusing on the resources you have to meet the challenge
  • Seeing the potential benefits of a situation
  • Reminding yourself of your strengths
  • Having a positive mindset (getting into the habit of thinking an optimist)

As you practice looking at threats as challenges more often, it becomes more automatic, and you experience more good stress and less bad stress.

Overall, it's important to have good stress in your life. Make an effort to cut out as much chronic stress as possible. Change your perception of stress where you can, and add positive activities to promote eustress. Together, these strategies help you create a healthy balance in your life.

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  1. Aschbacher K, O'donovan A, Wolkowitz OM, Dhabhar FS, Su Y, Epel E. Good stress, bad stress and oxidative stress: insights from anticipatory cortisol reactivity. Psychoneuroendocrinology. 2013;38(9):1698-708. doi:10.1016/j.psyneuen.2013.02.004

Additional Reading

  • Gibbons C, Dempster M, Moutray M. Stress and eustress in nursing students. J Adv Nurs. 2008;61(3):282-90. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2648.2007.04497.x.
  • Glei DA, Goldman N, Chuang YL, Weinstein M. Do chronic stressors lead to physiological dysregulation? Testing the theory of allostatic load. Psychosom Med. 2007;69(8):769-76. doi:10.1097/PSY.0b013e318157cba6.
  • Li G, He H. Hormesis, allostatic buffering capacity and physiological mechanism of physical activity: a new theoretic framework. Med Hypotheses. 2009;72(5):527-32. doi:10.1016/j.mehy.2008.12.037.
  • Logan JG, Barksdale DJ. Allostasis and allostatic load: expanding the discourse on stress and cardiovascular disease. J Clin Nurs. 2008;17(7B):201-8. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2702.2008.02347.x.
  • White JB. Fail or flourish? Cognitive appraisal moderates the effect of solo status on performance. Pers Soc Psychol Bull. 2008;34(9):1171-84. doi:10.1177/0146167208318404.

Source: https://www.verywellmind.com/what-kind-of-stress-is-good-for-you-3145055

4 Benefits of Stress You Didn’t Know About

When Stress Is Actually Good for You

We often hear how stress can wreak havoc on the body. It can cause insomnia and weight gain and increase your blood pressure. But despite the physical effects, many of us live, breathe, and eat stress — not by choice, of course. Stress is sometimes a black cloud we can’t escape. Even when we think the skies are sunny, stress rears its ugly head, snapping us back to reality.

As a long-time anxiety suffer, I have a love-hate relationship with stress. This might sound strange. But although stress takes my mind on an irrational rollercoaster from time to time, it’s ironic that I feel the most energetic and prolific when under pressure.

Don’t misunderstand me. I would love to wake up in the morning to roses and sunshine without a single stressor in the world, but we all know that’s not going to happen.

So rather than nurture the elusive dream of a stress-free existence, I see the glass half full, and you should, too.

Because whether you realize it or not, the stress might make you a smarter, healthier, and a stronger person.

Good stress vs. bad stress

Some people think any type of stress is bad, but this isn’t the case. In truth, all stress is not created equal. Obviously, when you’re overwhelmed and under pressure it's hard to see the silver lining. And if someone told you stress is beneficial to your health, you might laugh them off or suggest they have their head examined. But there’s validity in this statement.

This doesn’t mean you should make your life as complicated and stressful as possible. The saying “stress kills” couldn’t be a truer statement. When chronic stress — which is the bad type — dominates your thoughts day in and day out, it does a number on your body, causing anxiety, tiredness, high blood pressure, depression, etc.

But although you should do whatever it takes to avoid this type of relentless mental abuse, you should welcome moderate doses of stress with open arms.

Humans have a flight-or-fight response, which is an inborn physiological reaction that occurs when they’re under attack. Your body is wired to handle everyday, normal stressors, and when your natural defenses kick in, your well-being improves.

So, before you coin stress as the “bad guy,” consider some of these surprising health benefits.

1. It improves cognitive function

Unless you’re at an amusement park and about to experience the ride of your life, you might not enjoy that panicky feeling in the pit of your stomach.

On the other hand, if this feeling occurs in response to moderate stress levels, the upside is that the pressure and nervousness you feel can potentially boost your brain’s performance.

This is because moderate stress strengthens the connection between neurons in your brain, improving memory and attention span, and helping you become more productive.

In one study, researchers at the University of Berkeley found that in lab rats “brief stressful events caused the stem cells in their brains to proliferate into new nerve cells” resulting in increased mental performance after two weeks.

Better brain performance ly explains why many people, including myself, work better when under stress. For example, I’ve had clients throw me last-minute assignments with tight deadlines.

After accepting the work, sometimes I panic because I bit off more than I can chew.

But in every situation, I’ve gotten through the assignment and have received positive feedback, even though I didn’t have as much time as I would have d.

If you doubt the health benefits of stress on your brain, do a self-evaluation of your performance on days when you’re experiencing a higher amount of stress at work. You may discover that you’re more focused and productive than on low-stress days.

2. It helps you dodge a cold

The fight-or-flight response you feel when stressed is designed to protect you, whether it’s from injury or another perceived threat.

What’s interesting about low doses of the stress hormone is that it also helps protect from infections.

Moderate stress stimulates the production of a chemical called interleukins and gives the immune system a quick boost to protect against illnesses — un its evil twin, chronic stress, which lowers immunity and increases inflammation.

So, the next time you experience a shock to the system and your stress level elevates, remember this benefit. If a virus or cold spreads around your school or office, the “good” stress in your life might be the only drug you need to stay healthy.

I hate everything about stress. I hate the way it makes me feel, and I hate how stressful situations consume my mind — even if it’s only for a few hours. On the flip-side, stress has helped me become a stronger person over the years.

There’s no denying how going through a tough situation builds resiliency. When you experience something for the first time, you might think it’s the worst situation and crumble because you don’t know how to cope. But as you confront different situations and overcome various problems, you train yourself to deal with similar incidents in the future.

Don’t just believe me. Think about a tough situation you’ve dealt with in the past. How did you handle the stress when it first happened? Now, fast-forward to the present.

Have you dealt with a similar situation recently? If so, did you handle the problem differently the second time around? In all lihood, you did. Since you knew what to expect and you understood the possible outcomes, you probably felt a greater sense of control.

And because of this, you didn’t give up or crack under pressure. This is how stress made you stronger.

4. It enhances child development

Maybe you’ve heard or read stories of women who dealt with severe depression and anxiety during their pregnancies and gave birth prematurely or had babies with low birth weights.

It’s true that elevated stress levels can have a negative impact on both mom and baby.

As such, most expecting mothers do everything humanly possible to stay healthy and minimize stress and anxiety while pregnant.

Although chronic stress can negatively affect pregnancy, the good news is that moderate levels of normal stress during pregnancy won’t harm a baby.

A 2006 Johns Hopkins study followed 137 women from mid-pregnancy to their children’s second birthdays.

The study found that babies born to women who experienced mild to moderate stress during pregnancy had more advanced early developmental skills by the age of 2 than babies born to unstressed mothers.

Of course, this study doesn't suggest giving stress the red-carpet treatment while pregnant. But if you deal with periodic everyday stresses, don’t panic. It may actually help your baby’s development.

Stress in a nut shell

Until now, you may have wanted to bottle up all stress and toss it into a fiery pit. Now that you’re aware of the surprising health benefits of stress, remember that it can be a friend you didn’t know you wanted. The key is identifying good stress from bad stress. As long as it’s not chronic, stress can be a positive addition to your life. 

Source: https://www.healthline.com/health/benefits-of-stress-you-didnt-know-about

Why Some Stress Is Good for You

When Stress Is Actually Good for You

Source: Maridav/Shutterstock

Research shows that early experiences of trauma can disrupt the brain's stress response, affecting the amygdala (the brain’s alarm system), hippocampus (verbal memory center), prefrontal cortex (the CEO of the brain and its stress regulator). These changes make people with too much early trauma more chemically reactive to stress, in general, as a teenager or adult. It’s as if these early negative experiences feed our reactions to current stressors.

That being said, we all know some pretty successful and happy people who have experienced difficult childhoods—perhaps having an alcoholic parent, being adopted, or losing a parent. This raises the question of whether experiencing some stress can actually make us mentally tougher.

Is Some Stress Good for Us?

Some researchers have suggested that exposure to a moderate level of stress that you can master can actually make you stronger and better able to manage stress. It's  how a vaccine, which contains a tiny amount of the bug, can immunize you against getting the disease.

Richard Dienstbier’s (1989) theory of mental toughness suggests that experiencing some manageable stressors, with recovery in between, can make us more mentally and physically tough and less reactive to future stress. One possibility is that such experiences lead us to view stressors as more manageable and become more skillful at dealing with them. 

Some studies by Professor Seery and colleagues at UCLA seem to bear this out. They followed a national sample of subjects for several years, assessing how much stress they had experienced in their lives, their recent stressors, any mental health factors, and their overall life satisfaction. The researchers found that:

“People with a history of some lifetime adversity reported better mental health and well-being outcomes than not only people with a high history of adversity, but also than people with no history of adversity.” (Seery et al., 2010, p. 1025)

People with a lot of lifetime trauma had the worst mental and physical health, but those with a history of some (greater than zero) adverse life events were less distressed, had less disability, fewer post-traumatic stress symptoms, and higher life satisfaction over time than those with no negative life events. Importantly, people who had experienced a bit of adversity were the least affected by recent stressful life events. The researchers concluded that:

“In moderation, whatever does not kill us may indeed make us stronger.” (Seery et al., 2010, p.1025).

But was this just a freak result that may have had something to do with the particular sample they used?

It turns out this was not the case. The researchers found support for the benefits of a little adversity in a sample of chronic low back pain patients as well.

In a study of over 400 such patients (Seery, Leo, Holman & Silver, 2010), participants with the highest levels of adverse life events were the most sick and disabled overall.

But there was also a similar pattern to the previous study.

In other words, those with some (greater than zero) lifetime experience of adverse life events reported less disability and used the healthcare system less often than those with no adversity.

Why Does Experiencing (Moderate) Stress Make Us Tougher?

Results of these studies suggest that some history of experiencing stressors might be good for us, perhaps because this makes us less reactive to our current life events.

Here are some possible reasons why:

  • Perhaps experiencing a bit of stress make us hardier and better able to tolerate and adapt to life’s difficulties. 
  • Going through a moderate stressor ( relocating or breaking a limb) may help us learn new skills ( sociability or patience) we can apply in later life. 
  • We may gain confidence in managing stress. (“If I can do this, I can do the next difficult thing.”)
  • We may be less ly to fear change. For example, we may learn that it’s okay to leave a toxic relationship or a bad job and that we can survive and even thrive afterwards.
  • We may adopt a more positive attitude towards stress in general, knowing how it may have helped us grow. Research shows that seeing your stressor as a growth opportunity helps you perform better both in stressful laboratory tasks ( public speaking) and in stressful jobs ( sales).
  • People who report never experiencing any stress may be too averse to taking reasonable risks, making them less ly to reach their goals in life and relationships.

Source: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-mindful-self-express/201612/why-some-stress-is-good-you

The Surprising Benefits of Stress

When Stress Is Actually Good for You

Daniela Kaufer is an associate professor at UC Berkeley who studies the biology of stress, examining at the molecular level how the brain responds to anxiety and traumatic events.

Her recent findings reveal the difference between good stress and bad stress, as well as pointers for how to respond to stressful events in a healthy way.

She was interviewed by health writer Peter Jaret for the Berkeley Wellness newsletter, where this Q&A originally appeared.

Peter Jaret: Most of us think of stress as a bad thing. Can stress be good for you?

Daniela Kaufer in the lab. © Peg Skorpinski, UC Berkeley

Daniela Kaufer: The prevailing idea in our culture is that stress is bad. People complain about being stressed out. But we’re learning that moderate amounts of stress have powerful benefits.

The stress response is designed to help us react when something potentially threatening happens, to help us deal with it and learn from it.

Our research shows that moderate, short-lived stress can improve alertness and performance and boost memory.

PJ: How do you measure the effects of stress?

DK: In our work, we study the effects of stress on rats, and we look specifically at the growth of stem cells in a part of the brain called the hippocampus. The hippocampus is involved in the stress response, and it’s also very important for learning and memory.

We’ve found that when rats are exposed to moderate stress for a short time—being immobilized for a few hours, for instance—stem cell growth is stimulated, and those cells go on to form neurons, or brain cells. A couple of weeks later, tests show improvements in learning and memory.

We’ve shown that the specific cells generated during stress have become activated.

But when the animals are exposed to chronic or intense stress—being immobilized for days at a time, for example, or being immobilized and then exposed to the smell of a predator—stem cell growth is suppressed and fewer brain cells are generated.

PJ: What about people? Can manageable amounts of stress boost brain power?

DK: We think the same thing happens in people. Manageable stress increases alertness and performance. And by encouraging the growth of stem cells that become brain cells, stress improves memory.

The increase in stem cells and neuron generation makes sense from an adaptive point of view. If an animal encounters a predator and manages to escape, it’s important to remember where and when that encounter happened, to avoid it in the future.

If you’re walking down an alley and somebody threatens you, it’s important to remember exactly where you were in order to avoid that alley in the future. The brain is constantly responding to stress. Extreme or chronic stress can have a negative effect.

But moderate and short-lived stress— an upcoming exam or preparing to deliver a speech in public—improves cognitive performance and memory.

PJ: When does too much stress become harmful?

DK: Individuals vary widely in how they respond to stress. The same stressor may be manageable for one person and overwhelming for another, depending in part on perception. People who feel resilient and confident that they can manage stress are much less ly to be overwhelmed by it—and more ly to have a healthy response—than people who think of stress as bad.

Another factor is control. Stress is much less ly to be harmful if people have some control over the situation. A tight deadline is stressful but manageable if you have the ability to meet it. If not, if you feel helpless, the stress is more ly to be harmful. Early life experiences also shape how people respond to stress.

If you have a lot of stress in your early life, you may be more vulnerable to the harmful effects of stress. Research by Rachel Yehuda, a scientist at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai and the James J. Peters Veterans Affairs Medical Center in New York, has shown that Holocaust survivors have increased levels of stress hormones.

Her most recent research shows that even offspring of Holocaust survivors have higher stress hormone levels.

PJ: Your work focuses on the effects of stress on the brain. Does stress affect other systems of the body?

DK: Chronic stress can constrict blood vessels and increase the risk of cardiovascular disease. Research shows that too much stress can suppress the immune system. Ours and other research has shown that chronic stress also reduces fertility in animals.

In female mice, for instance, stress lowers libido, reduces fertility, and increases the risk of miscarriage. We also know that extreme stress can lead to post traumatic stress disorder, which is an area I’m very interested in. As I’ve said, it’s important to remember threats.

But it’s also important to be able to forget them as new experiences come along. Let’s say a man with a long white beard frightens you as a child. It’s healthy to begin to forget that memory as you come to see that men with long white beards aren’t inherently dangerous.

The problem with post traumatic stress disorder is that people can’t forget. They can’t let traumatic memories go. The question is why. And we don’t have an answer yet.

PJ: Can you offer any helpful strategies to ensure that stress is beneficial rather than harmful?

DK: If you tend to have a positive attitude—a self-confident sense that you can get through a rough period—you’re more ly to have a healthy response than if you perceive stress as catastrophic. Another powerful factor is social support.

If you have friends and family you can turn to during a stressful period, you’re more ly to handle the stress well. Social support buffers stress. That’s something most of us know intuitively. Now we’re beginning to understand it biologically. Researchers have identified a hormone called oxytocin that reduces the stress response.

According to psychologist Kelly McGonigal, oxytocin is enhanced by social contact and support.

Another powerful buffer for stress is physical exercise. We see the evidence in animal studies. Rodents that are allowed to run are more ly to create new brain cells in response to stress than sedentary animals.

I think the same thing may work for people. People who are active respond better when stress comes along than people who are inactive.

Physical activity after a stressful experience also helps moderate the effects of stress.

PJ: What do you do when your own life gets stressful?

DK: I’m not the best role model. I’ll find myself writing grant proposals at one in the morning, totally stressed out. I know what I should do. Before I became a scientist, I trained as a yoga instructor.

I know I should take a yoga break. But I guess it helps to know from my research that stress can be beneficial, so at least I have a positive attitude. And that plays a big role in helping people handle stress in a healthy way.

Source: https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/the_surprising_benefits_of_stress

5 Weird Ways Stress Can Actually Be Good for You

When Stress Is Actually Good for You

We hear over and over again that stress is unhealthy. And all that talk makes us, well, stressed. But getting worked up isn't always a bad thing, says Richard Shelton, MD, vice chair for research in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Alabama Birmingham; after all, the body's fight-or-flight response is meant to be protective, not harmful.

It's only when stress becomes chronic, or when we feel we're no longer in control of a situation, that it negatively affects our health and wellbeing.

Here, then, are five reasons you should rest easier when it comes to everyday stress—and how a little short-term anxiety can actually benefit your brain and body.

It helps boost brainpower

Low-level stressors stimulate the production of brain chemicals called neurotrophins, and strengthen the connections between neurons in the brain.

In fact, this may be the primary mechanism by which exercise (a physical stressor) helps boost productivity and concentration, Dr. Shelton says. Short-term psychological stressors, he adds, can have a similar effect, as well.

Plus, animal studies have suggested that the body's response to stress can temporarily boost memory and learning scores.

RELATED: Best and Worst Ways to Cope With Stress

It can increase immunity—in the short term

“When the body responds to stress, it prepares itself for the possibility of injury or infection,” says Dr. Shelton.

“One way it does this is by producing extra interleukins—chemicals that help regulate the immune system—providing at least a temporary defensive boost.

” Research in animals support this idea, as well: A 2012 Stanford study found that subjecting lab rats to mild stress produced a “massive mobilization” of several types of immune cells in their bloodstreams.

It can make you more resilient

Learning to deal with stressful situations can make future ones easier to manage, according to a large body of research on the science of resilience. It's the idea behind Navy SEAL training, Dr.

Shelton says—although you can certainly benefit from less extreme experiences, as well.

“Repeated exposure to stressful events gives [SEALs] the chance to develop both a physical and psychological sense of control, so when they're in actually combat they don't just shut down,” he says.

RELATED: 25 Surprising Ways Stress Affects Your Health

This idea may even hold true at a cellular level: A 2013 University of California San Francisco study found that while chronic stress promotes oxidative damage to our DNA and RNA, moderate levels of perceived daily stress actually seem to protect against it and enhance “psychobiological resilience.”

It motivates you to succeed

Good stress, also known in the scientific community as eustress, may be just the thing you need to get job done at work.

“Think about a deadline: It's staring you in the face, and it's going to stimulate your behavior to really manage the situation effectively, rapidly, and more productively,” says Dr. Shelton.

The key, he says, is viewing stressful situations as a challenge that you can meet, rather than an overwhelming, unpassable roadblock.

Eustress can also help you enter a state of “flow,” a heightened sense of awareness and complete absorption into an activity, according to research from psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. Flow can be achieved in the workplace, in sports, or in a creative endeavor (such as playing a musical instrument), and Csikszentmihalyi argues that it's driven largely by pressure to succeed.

It can enhance child development

Moms-to-be often worry that their own anxiety will negatively affect their unborn babies—and it can, when it's unrelenting.

But a 2006 Johns Hopkins study found that most children of women who reported mild to moderate stress levels during pregnancy actually showed greater motor and developmental skills by age 2 than those of unstressed mothers.

The one exception: the children of women who viewed their pregnancy as more negative than positive had slightly lower attention capacity.

RELATED: 13 Ways to Beat Stress in 15 Minutes or Less

Source: https://www.health.com/condition/stress/5-weird-ways-stress-can-actually-be-good-for-you

How Some Stress Can Actually Be Good For You

When Stress Is Actually Good for You

Stress is often viewed as an exclusively negative sensation: Work deadlines pile up, family drama takes its toll, busy schedules wear us thin and we wind up drained.

Stress occurs when someone feels an imbalance between a challenge and the resources they have to deal with it, says Kathleen Gunthert, a professor of psychology at American University. Researchers have identified two different types of stress — ‘distress,’ which refers to negative stress (a breakup) and ‘eustress,’ which refers to positive stress (starting a new job).

Chronic stress — defined as “the physiological or psychological response to a prolonged internal or external stressful event,” according to the American Psychological Association — has been linked to unhealthy eating, skin problems, smaller brain size, and even an increased lihood of chronic disease.

In small doses, however, experts say stress can actually have some positive effects. Moderate levels of daily, manageable stress — also known as ‘eustress’ — may help protect against oxidative damage, which is linked to aging and disease, a 2013 study published in Psychoneuroendocrinology found.

Here are some unexpected upsides to experiencing a little bit of stress.

Stress enhances motivation

While heightened stress can feel overwhelming and decrease motivation, a little bit can go a long way when it comes to kickstarting your work. “Medium levels of stress can enhance our motivation,” Gunthert says.

For example, the stress of a deadline can help people focus and pay more attention because time is running out.

“We have all had the experience saying, ‘oh I’ve got to get such and such done’ but not being able to find the motivation to do it until we are stressed because it is due the next day and all of a sudden the motivation is there,” she says. “That fight or flight response can kick us into gear sometimes.”

Stress can build resilience and encourage growth

Even though stress can feel overwhelming, it also forces people to problem-solve, ultimately building confidence and skills that are important for future experiences, says Peter Vitaliano, professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the School of Medicine at the University of Washington. With increased resiliency and confidence, people tend to feel less threatened and more in control of their situations, he says.

Allison Berwald, a licensed clinical social worker in New York City, says that using stress to face your fears or challenges can also help you work through experiences instead of avoiding them. After facing a fear, you will feel more equipped to handle it in the future, since you have already experienced it, she says.

Get the latest career, relationship and wellness advice to enrich your life: sign up for TIME’s Living newsletter.

Stress can promote bonding

One of the most surprising benefits of stress is that it can help build interpersonal relationships, which are key to overall health. “Social connection is one of the most protective factors against physical and mental health problems,” Gunthert says. When people feel loved and understood by another person, they feel less alone and isolated.

Support groups, for example, are a great place for people to talk about their stresses with others, which builds compassion and, in turn, positive hormones, Vitaliano says. By opening up to one another, Vitaliano says that people feel better because they can relate to each other’s struggles and validate their feelings, creating positivity a negative experience.

Talking to friends and family can build and strengthen relationships too. “A lot of our friendships or family relationships wouldn’t be the same if we hadn’t supported each other through some of the tougher times,” says Gunthert.

Stress is part of a meaningful life

A life without stress isn’t necessarily better. Take, for example, a student in graduate school.

The application process is competitive, the coursework can be challenging and after graduation, transitioning from an academic setting to a business one can be a learning process. However, in the end, one accomplished something to be proud of, says Gunthert.

“The things that we are most proud of and bring the most meaning in our lives are hard,” she says. “If we wipe out the stress, we’d also ly wipe away a lot of the meaning in our lives.”

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Write to Elaine Selna at elaine.selna@time.com.

Source: https://time.com/5434826/stress-good-health/

Is Stress Good for You?

When Stress Is Actually Good for You

Disparaged as dangerous, healthy stress levels actually can push you to peak performance. Too much of it, though, strains your heart, robs you of mental clarity and even increases your risk of chronic disease.

A study by the American Institute of Stress reported that 77 percent of U.S. citizens regularly experienced the physical symptoms of stress.

Thirty-three percent of those surveyed feel that they are living with extreme stress levels.

Researchers and psychologists now say that it is possible to learn how to identify and manage individual reactions to stress. We can develop healthier outlooks as well as improve performance on cognitive tests, at work, and in athletics.

This is how stress affects the body when performance matters: The sympathetic nervous system and hypothalamus, pituitary and adrenal glands pump stress hormones, adrenaline and cortisol, into the bloodstream. This causes the common effects we’re all undoubtedly familiar with — the heart beats faster, breathing speeds up, and muscles tense.

For some of us, the exhilaration we feel when pushing against a deadline is similar to the rush a thrillseeker gets during an extreme sport such as bungee jumping. By activating the dopamine reward center in the brain that feeds us feel-good endorphins, stress can temporarily boost performance.

It’s what comes next that divides healthy stress from harmful stress. People experiencing what is known as “adaptive stress,” the more beneficial kind, feel pumped and ready for action. The blood vessels dilate, increasing blood flow to help the brain, muscles and limbs meet a challenge.

The body responds differently to harmful stress. Symptoms often are similar to those during a fit of rage or anger. The blood vessels constrict. You may begin to speak more loudly and experience lapses in logic or judgement. Hands and feet may grow cold as blood rushes to the body’s core. Research has shown that in cases of threatening stress, the heart often begins to beat erratically.

While the productivity benefits of stress may have you thinking that your busy lifestyle is justified, over a long period of time, stress can not only debilitate your productivity but have serious health implications.

To use the example again of an adrenaline junkie, your habit of trying to fill your days with multiple competing demands can quickly spiral control.

Eventually the brain develops a tolerance for stress, so you’ll need more of it to feel the same rush.

Ultimately, you’ll end up constantly pushing yourself to force your body to release that burst of cortisol and adrenaline you’ve become accustomed to. But how do you split the benefits from the harmful effects?

A 2014 study conducted by the American Psychological Association found that 42 percent of adults say they are not doing enough or are not sure whether they are doing enough to manage their stress. Twenty percent say they are not engaging in an activity to help relieve or manage their stress.

To manage your stress levels and separate good from bad symptoms, keep a positive attitude. Keeping stress to a healthy level is achievable through the use of relaxation techniques, including deep breathing and guided imagery. Acknowledge your worries instead of building them up in your mind until you are overwhelmed.

In addition to thinking positively about stressors, deep abdominal breathing and training in meditation and mindfulness, or regulating one’s own mental and physical states, helps moderate stress.

Stress is an unavoidable fact of life, but the next time you’re up against the clock, remember to take a break. Feeling stressed isn’t worth getting worked up about!

Is Stress Good for You?

Source: https://psychcentral.com/blog/is-stress-good-for-you/

7 Surprising Ways Some Stress is Actually Good for You

When Stress Is Actually Good for You

Jan 1, 2019

Health, Mental Health, Stress

(Travelerpix / Shutterstock.com)

Believe it or not, some stress is actually good for you. In fact, your body is naturally wired to handle normal everyday stressors.

There are actually two types of stress, the one that is labeled by scientists as eustress is 'good' stress. Some positive life experiences can cause short-term stress, getting a new job, going to college or having a baby. This type of stress allows your natural flight or fight defenses to kick in and allows you to not only cope with the situation but to benefit as well.

Of course, chronic stress, or distress, is bad stress, and detrimental for your health and mental wellbeing and should be avoided as much as possible. Small amounts of good stress, on the other hand, have some surprising health benefits.

A study at the University of California Berkley found that some amounts of stress push you to optimal alertness and improve cognitive performance. Stress caused the stem cells in the test subjects to form new nerve cells that make brains work better. So, some stress at your job can increase productivity and creativity. Remember that when you have a looming deadline.

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The body's flight or fight mechanism is designed to protect you from injury or any other perceived threat.

A study at Stanford showed that moderate stress stimulates the production of interleukins that boost your body's immune system and helps you fight off illnesses.

So, if you are apprehensive about going to the doctor or getting an injection, that stress can actually help you get better faster or make an immunization more effective.

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There is some truth to the statement that whatever doesn't kill you makes you stronger. The more moderate stress you successfully handle makes it easier for you to cope with stress, good or bad, later. That's because you've trained yourself on how to manage stressors and you will remember them because…

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This is directly related to your improved brain performance. When your brain cell connections multiply, your memory improves. In nature, animals who remember stressful situations almost getting eaten helps them remember how to avoid being in the same situation again, according to the UC Berkley researchers.

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The surge of energy that you get during short-term stress is designed to help you stay focused. Kathleen Gunthert, a professor of psychology at American University told Time Magazine that “Medium levels of stress can enhance our motivation.” This can make you be motivated to study more and focusing allows you to learn more. That's why cramming for exams works.

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A study at Johns Hopkins University showed that the children of mothers who were mildly or moderately stressed during pregnancy were smarter and more advanced at age two than the control group. So, a little bit of stress during pregnancy will not harm your baby and could actually help you create a Little Einstein.

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Modest amounts of stress can actually strengthen your mental health. Melanie Greenberg Ph.D.

wrote in Psychology Today said that experiencing manageable stressors with recovery in-between can make you mentally tougher.

She wrote that experiencing small amounts of stress make us stronger, more tolerant and better able to tolerate and adapt to life's difficulties. That’s good mental health in a nutshell.

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Source: https://www.goodnet.org/articles/7-surprising-ways-some-stress-actually-good-for-you