Positive effects of stress?
Updated: Nov 9, 2022
Nancy Neithercut In today’s world there is no doubt that we are assaulted with stressors, and our bodies respond the same to a text or a tiger in the living room. When the fight flight or freeze sympathetic nervous system is ignited, remember that this is a natural response, and do not try to get rid of it, simply acknowledge it. Next you can kick on your parasympathetic nervous system, (rest and digest), if you have trained and strengthened it through practice. I recommend this breath work and many report back to me that it works. The exhale must be longer than the inhale. I love these videos, you can choose your speed: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XITejXTj36M (only takes ten minutes) He also has a rescue breath technique: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ozjsnvzff2E You may also have noticed that some people’s lives seem to be filled with stress yet they do not feel stressed, and other’s, the opposite. So it is our reaction to stress that is most important. Learning about the benefits of moderate stress can influence your reaction. Moderate stress can stimulate brain cell growth in the hippocampus or memory center of your brain, also stimulating the connections between neurons. This can boost your attention span, and help your reaction to the stress. (Not the fear, freeze reaction we often think of). (1) It appears that people with some adverse events in their lives learn to adapt and find happiness more easily than people with an ‘easy ride’ through life. These life experiences may make you more resilient to later stresses as well.(2) Not a life time of adversity, but some cumulative lifetime adversity is associated with optimal well-being. “A moderate number of adverse life events was associated with less negative responses to pain and more positive psychophysiological responses while taking a test.” (3) Stress reactions help people to motivate to solve problems and prepare for the next ones. If you have had success with smaller ones you can feel prepared for bigger ones rather than feeling paralyzed. After all ‘good’ things in life are stressful, like marriage, as well as divorce. These are the highlights of our lives! Think of the stress involved in planning a winter long trip to India, which I have done many times (especially hard before the internet). The goal was worth the work, and it was tiring, but I never thought of it as stressful. Perhaps it is the way you think about stress that influences if it is positive or negative, even to the cause of detriments to health like heart disease and premature death. (4) (5) (6) Stress can heighten your problem solving ability and memory, and your physical abilities by causing the release of adrenaline that speeds up your heart rate and metabolism for faster reactions, while also acting as a painkiller so that you can have better endurance. Think of fighting the tiger! Your reaction to stress can change as your ideas about stress change, even to the point of just watching videos that show how stress can be helpful. (7) When is life not stressful? Stress is a part of life, our reaction can be to motivate or debilitate. The feeling of anxiety is the same feeling of excitement. The saying, ‘Stress is bad and should be avoided’ is bunk. You would be running forever! Running from life is running from life’s rewards.
Kirby ED, Muroy SE, Sun WG, et al. Acute stress enhances adult rat hippocampal neurogenesis and activation of newborn neurons via secreted astrocytic FGF2. Elife. 2013;2:e00362. Published 2013 Apr 16. doi:10.7554/eLife.00362
(2) Seery MD, Holman EA, Silver RC. Whatever does not kill us: cumulative lifetime adversity, vulnerability, and resilience. J Pers Soc Psychol. 2010;99(6):1025-1041. doi:10.1037/a0021344 (3) Seery MD, Leo RJ, Lupien SP, Kondrak CL, Almonte JL. An upside to adversity?: moderate cumulative lifetime adversity is associated with resilient responses in the face of controlled stressors. Psychol Sci. 2013;24(7):1181-1189. doi:10.1177/0956797612469210 (4) Keller A, Litzelman K, Wisk LE, et al. Does the perception that stress affects health matter? The association with health and mortality. Health Psychol. 2012;31(5):677-684. doi:10.1037/a0026743 (5) Hermann Nabi, Mika Kivimäki, G. David Batty, Martin J. Shipley, Annie Britton, Eric J. Brunner, Jussi Vahtera, Cédric Lemogne, Alexis Elbaz, Archana Singh-Manoux, Increased risk of coronary heart disease among individuals reporting adverse impact of stress on their health: the Whitehall II prospective cohort study, European Heart Journal, Volume 34, Issue 34, 7 September 2013, Pages 2697–2705, https://doi.org/10.1093/eurheartj/eht216 (6)Richardson S, Shaffer JA, Falzon L, Krupka D, Davidson KW, Edmondson D. Meta-analysis of perceived stress and its association with incident coronary heart disease. Am J Cardiol. 2012;110(12):1711-1716. doi:10.1016/j.amjcard.2012.08.004 (7) Crum AJ, Salovey P, Achor S. Rethinking stress: the role of mindsets in determining the stress response. J Pers Soc Psychol. 2013;104(4):716-733. doi:10.1037/a0031201