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Stress: The Good, The Bad, and The Benefits You Never Knew Existed

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While it might be difficult to accept, stress is a part of our everyday life. You might think that all types of stress are bad, but that isn’t true! In most cases, we believe that stress is a negative thing that wreaks havoc on our physical and mental health, but it can actually provide us benefits. 

Though it can be harmful if we experience too much stress, the latest research shows that experiencing a minimal to moderate amount of stress can actually be good for us! 

Understanding Good vs. Bad Stress

There are two types of stress you can experience: good stress, also known as eustress, and bad stress, also known as distress. According to the American Psychological Association (APA), eustress is “the positive stress response involving optimal levels of stimulation”. 

In short, eustress is the stress that arises when you do something challenging, yet enjoyable. Some examples of experiencing eustress can happen when you start a new job, begin a family, play or coach sports, and retire. 

On the other hand, distress wears you out, is harmful to your health, and can lead to anxiety, confusion, poor concentration, and decreased performance. Distress is commonly linked to relationships, money, work, racial inequities, and perceived loss. Bad stress can be acute (short-term) or chronic (long-term). While acute distress doesn’t take a toll on your physical and mental health, chronic distress can have lasting implications.  

Although you might think that pursuing a stress-free life is the ultimate goal, experiencing both good and bad stress can benefit our mind and body. Research shows that a minimal to moderate amount of stress provides four health benefits. 

The Health Benefits of Stress

Stress Can Improve Cognitive Function

When stress is present, such as the time leading up to a presentation at school, getting on a rollercoaster ride, or starting an important sports game, we experience a stress response. The stress response is designed to help us react when something potentially threatening happens, to help us deal with it and learn from it. 

Daniela Kaufer, associate professor of integrative biology at the University of California, explains that their research shows that moderate, short-lived stress can improve alertness and performance and boost memory.

She goes on to describe that, “While too little stress can lead to boredom and depression, too much can cause anxiety and poor health. The right amount of acute stress, however, tunes up the brain and improves performance and health.”  

Stress Can Keep You From Being Sick

Healthline explains that the fight-or-flight response you feel when stressed is designed to protect you. Low doses of stress hormones, such as adrenaline, can help protect you from infections. 

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

Stress Can Build Resiliency

Learning to overcome stressful situations can make future ones much easier to work through. While no one wants to experience acute or chronic stress, there is no doubt that conquering stressful events builds your confidence when faced with another challenge. 

Stress Can Motivate You to Succeed

Stress might be the motivating factor for you to finish homework assignments, projects at work, and deadlines! The stress of completing a task can stimulate your behavior to manage the situation effectively and get the work done rapidly. 

We Can Help

To learn more about the overall impact of stress and ways to decrease your levels of bad stress, check out our article, “How to Manage Stress: Best Practices, Tips, and Tricks.” If you are in need of resources, A Brighter Day has partnered with BetterHelp to provide access to free mental health treatment. 

Email us at support@abrighterday.info to be connected to complementary resources or text “BRIGHTER” to 741741 for immediate mental health crisis support. 


References:

https://www.summahealth.org/flourish/entries/2021/01/stress-management-how-to-tell-the-difference-between-good-and-bad-stress

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

https://news.berkeley.edu/2013/04/16/researchers-find-out-why-some-stress-is-good-for-you/

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

https://hbr.org/2015/09/stress-can-be-a-good-thing-if-you-know-how-to-use-it

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

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