We all know that stress can make us feel tired, withdrawn and give that niggling feeling of loss of control, but in short adrenalin filled bursts stress really could be good for you.
With the likes of Brain Training promising to keep our minds active and healthy, dealing with stressful circumstances works in a similar way, triggering biological processes that can reduce the risk of cancer, heart disease and Alzheimer’s.
Recognise the Differences Between Long-Term and Short-Term Stress
The ability to recognise the difference between short term and long term stress is the key to maintaining good health. Chronic stress tends to leave us tired and withdrawn, whereas short term stress produces perspiration, trembling and a rapid rise in blood pressure. It’s this urge to fight or flight stimulates the body, gives us sensations of euphoria and feeling alive, then when it’s over that intense rush of relief.
Good stress, or as it’s sometimes called, eustress, is so beneficial because the normally damaging hormones that are released during stressful situations can actually activate the immune system into action if the stressor is quick to disappear. This shock of stress caused by a short-lived event such as a job interview, an argument or important presentation forces the body to perform an instant repair.
Mind and Body Go Hand-In-Hand
It’s well circulated that when we stop our bodies tend to do the same. Recent studies by the University of Michigan found that those who lived through the Great Depression had on average an extended life expectancy of around 6 years. It seems that while there is a job to be done we will keep going long enough to do it, however dull that job may be.
Stress in the workplace is one of the most common around, but Financial Times work commentator, Lucy Kellaway says even work pressure can be good for you, “It’s only through hard work that you feel sufficiently virtuous to enjoy self-indulgence,” she says. While prolonged holiday may seem like the ideal, over time it can start to feel hollow and stagnate. Stressful situations may cause us to feel out of control, but also remind us we’re alive. It’s often the case that situations involving some variety of stress also involve progression of some sort, without this progression life can stagnate fast.
Not All Stress Is Good
Of course extreme stress can be equally damaging to both our mental and physical health. Prolonged exposure to extreme stress can affect the production of dopamine in the brain, leading to poor memory, inability to stay alert and lack of attention. In extreme case severe stress can lead to more serious results such as heart disease, obesity, diabetes and high blood pressure.
Obviously there’s a fine line between healthy pressure and a damaging amount, but good health lies in the pursuit of that balance. While dealing with mild bouts of everyday stress can have surprisingly benefits, prolonged exposure is something to be avoided at all costs.
This post was written by Sammi Rensul, a mental health blogger who is currently researching work-related stress.