The Bright Side of Stress

Photo Courtesy: solutionschange

Photo Courtesy: solutionschange

Nikita Kheni, Photojournalist

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You may find yourself repeating the mantra “don’t stress out!” over and over again in your head at times.  But what if stress is actually good for you? Despite the bad reputation that stress has held for so long, there is actually a growing appreciation that pressure has its perks.

 

“You think that stress is bad, but research shows that in moderation and with the proper resources, not all stress is bad,” states assistant professor of psychology at the University of Utah, Elisabeth Conradt. Some experts argue that the difference between bad and good stress is all in how we view the situation. It is the difference between feeling distress (the ugly side of stress we all know too well) versus eustress (the good cousin of distress).

The benefits of surviving stressful situations and coping with them effectively add up in the future. “The thought is that this can set you up to be more resilient to facing stressors later on,” Conradt states.

 

The ability to withstand stress also has the benefits that come with being in a bind. One small study found that young men had boosts in their short-term memory after they were put in a socially stressful situation. Other reports suggests that pressure can make you more creative and responsible.

 

“Nothing is objectively positive, it’s all in how you perceive it,” states Todd Kashdan, professor of psychology at George Mason University. “People stress about these things and our thoughts about these situations matter immensely.”. Likewise, most situations are also not objectively negative, although some do qualify such as assault, natural disaster and losing a job. However, these stresses are manageable, especially with support from friends and family.

 

There are cases where stress can be really dangerous such as toxic stress, which can be borne out of high-level or frequent adversity, and occurs when our body’s stress response that normally helps us cope with a difficult situation, including increased heartbeat and stress hormone levels goes into overdrive. It can have lasting damage, especially in children, who may suffer developmental delays and face higher risks of developing chronic diseases.
Stress is more than just a nuisance. It is also a positive reminder that we are doing something we are passionate about. You don’t stress out about things you don’t care about, and you can’t create a meaningful life without experiencing some stress. We would not have our grades, health, long-term relationships, and friendships without stress either.