How Stress Can Be Useful
Stress is our body's reaction to anything that causes physical, emotional, or psychological strain. It is a part and parcel of all our lives and everybody experiences it at different points in varying degrees.
We're often told that stress is not good for our health and that we should avoid it at all costs. What often goes unnoticed is that stress is our body's biological response to alarming situations. When kept in balance and used correctly, stress can be a great catalyst in self-improvement and self-preservation.
Good Stress vs. Bad Stress
Contrary to the one-dimensional view often adopted while talking about stress, there are actually two kinds of stress that people usually experience. They are, namely Good Stress or "Eustress" and Bad stress or "Distress". Distress can be further categorized into acute and chronic depending on its duration.
Eustress refers to the nervousness or butterflies in our stomach we feel when we're excited about something. Some common events that might trigger stress are going on a first date, performing on stage, riding a rollercoaster, or competing in a contest. Some people even experience an adrenaline rush or euphoria as a result of it. This stress is actually good for us and prompts personality growth.
Distress refers to the stress that weighs heavy on your mind. It can bring about negative physiological changes such as high blood pressure, fatigue, quick pulse rate, insomnia, etc. It can be either acute or chronic.
Acute distress is commonly the result of shocking news or danger that throws your body into a flight-or-fight response. Chronic stress on the other hand is a result of being subjected to long-term stress. This is extremely risky for you and must be treated as soon as detected to avoid further mental and physical issues.
Positive Effects of Stress
If you're never been stressed, it means that you've not challenged yourself or tried to achieve greater things in life. Stress plays the same role in your life as salt plays in a recipe, too much of it might make your life insufferable, but you cannot go without just a pinch. When directed positively, stress can help you become a better person and outdo yourself every day, both in your personal and professional life.
Here are some positive effects that a sensible amount of stress can have on your life.
Boosts your Cognitive Function
Moderate stress can boost your brainpower by strengthening the connection between the neurons and the brain. It induces the release of neurotrophins which are responsible for the survival, development, and functioning of neurons. As a result, our memory and ability to concentrate can improve. It explains why people often perform better and more efficiently when given tight deadlines and subjected to high-pressure environments.
In a study at the University of Berkeley, researchers found that when lab rats were subjected to brief stressful events, their mental performance improved after a period of two weeks. Hence, this phenomenon is observed all through nature.
Necessity is the mother of all innovation. When you're under pressure to come up with a solution, it is then that you come up with the most creative strategies. This is why artists and musicians often lock themselves up for days even though it puts them under mental and physical strain. Before a breakthrough, there's always a period of hardship that motivates you to do better and opens up your imagination.
May Improve Your Immune System
According to a Stanford University School of Medicine study, short periods of acute stress can trigger the release of hormones that improve the functioning of cells that are crucial for our immunity response. Hence, a sedentary life might make you feel comfortable in the moment, but encountering dangers and stress once in a while can keep your body more alert and well-prepared.
Motivation to Succeed
When you're in unfavorable circumstances, you try your best to get out of the situation unscathed. Your motivation for success outranks any laziness that you might harbor. Research suggests that students are prone to scoring higher grades when exposed to a healthy amount of stress. Hence, stress increases your chance of accomplishing things when managed properly.
It is also important to note that every big change in your life is accompanied by some degree of stress. Whether you're getting a new job, moving to a new city, or getting married, apprehension and discomfort are guaranteed in the beginning. You need this stress to grow and move forward in your life. Nothing good can be achieved until and unless you put yourself in uncharted territories.
People stuck in stressful situations together are likely to build a bond based on their mutual suffering. It's a surprising by-product of stress, but beneficial nonetheless. Sharing your problems with your loved ones can bring you closer to them too. In fact, the concept of support groups is wholly based on this principle. When people with similar stresses in life come together, they can easily empathize with each other and form interpersonal connections.
It Makes You Resilient
You will never learn how to handle trouble and stand headstrong against it until you've come across hardships. Being in a stressful situation forces you to learn how to cope with unexpected problems. It increases your confidence by uplifting your self-belief each time you win your daily battles. This way, you're better prepared to tackle adversities in the future and become stronger both mentally and physically.
Ways to Make Your Stress Useful
Our body's response to stress is usually based on our perception of the cause. If you let your stress get the best of you, it can cause panic and anxiety. On the other hand, if you look at a hurdle in your life as an opportunity instead of a hazard, you'll experience anticipation and excitement.
Here are some ways you can turn your stress into an asset.
Know Your Strengths
To fight a battle, you need to know what weapons you have in your arsenal. When you have a clear idea of your capabilities and strengths, you're not afraid of the situations that come your way. Rather, you're motivated to prove yourself.
Avoid Negative Self-Talk
Life is unpredictable so not every difficulty you face is a result of your inadequacy or shortfalls. Putting yourself down and blaming yourself for everything does nothing productive but is only a call for self-pity. Even if the stress you're in right now is caused by your own mistakes, what matters is how you manage it hereon. Bringing your morale down yourself is just going to throw you into a thought loop of hopelessness.
Manage Your Resources
Stress is usually caused by financial setbacks, exams, excessive work, and similar issues. In these cases, you need to use whatever resources you have smartly to get through tough times. Use your stress to increase your awareness and function better. Time is the biggest resource of all and hence having a strong grip over how you use your time can help you lower bad stress and convert it into eustress. Read our article here https://www.iamears.com/blog/Time-Management-Strategies-to-Reduce-Stress-1c383cd30b7c298a to learn about the best time management strategies to reduce distress.
It's easier said than done, but there is no replacement for sheer optimism. It can help you get through the worst of times and make something good out of the hassle you went through by the end of it. Instead of being scared of all that you might lose in case you fail, think about all that you could gain if you work hard enough and succeed. Not only will it help you bear your stress without breaking it down, but it'll also improve your overall mental health and quality of life.
There's a fine line between being occasionally stressed due to a busy lifestyle and being under a perpetual state of stress and fatigue. If you find yourself slipping into the latter, you need to get medical help. Visit iAmEars to sign up for online counseling sessions with skilled psychiatrists and counselors. They can help you detect the root cause of all your stress and help you develop management strategies. You can also vent out your thoughts and feelings on the forum while maintaining complete anonymity. Through support groups present on the platform, you can get a deeper insight into the lives of people who are going through the same problems as you and engage in mutual empathy. iAmEars will be by your side through all your good and bad mental phases.
Life is what you make of it, and often, so is stress. Stress is inescapable, so instead of bottling it all up and wearing yourself out, try to channel it towards productive purposes. Learn more about your stress tolerance so that you can pressurize yourself just enough to get your work done quickly. Differentiating between good stress and bad stress is going to be key in doing so. Your stress is supposed to challenge you and not threaten your well-being.
In the video linked below, renowned psychiatrist Dr. Ashish Mittal briefly discusses all the ways stress can be beneficial.
- Researchers find out why some stress is good for you - https://news.berkeley.edu/2013/04/16/researchers-find-out-why-some-stress-is-good-for-you/
- Stress can have positive effects on students - https://westliberty.edu/thetrumpet/2017/06/16/stress-can-positive-effects-students/
- Study explains how stress can boost immune system - https://med.stanford.edu/news/all-news/2012/06/study-explains-how-stress-can-boost-immune-system.html