While we don’t react to stress the same or feel the same things are stressful, most of us still get stress wrong. We believe it’s harmful, when in fact, the right kind of stress is helpful. Consider these facts:
- The right stress is good for you! Stress expert Bruce McEwen of Rockefeller University identified three types: good stress, tolerable stress, and toxic stress. The stress most of us have, most of the time, isn’t “tolerable” or “toxic” stress, but good stress. Stanford researchers found: “a confrontation with a co-worker, the pressure to perform, a to-do list that’s too long— are not the toxic type of stress that’s been linked to serious health issues. Short bouts of this type of everyday stress can be a good thing.” Who knew an impending project deadline could be good for you?
- There are benefits to stress. Firdaus Dhabhar, associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral science at Stanford University, along with a team of researchers, found not only that moderate, transient stress heightens our immunity, but “short bursts of stress can paradoxically enhance memory and learning.” We optimize these benefits with no stress periods
Life Happens—Dealing with Stress, Change, & Being Overwhelmed
interspersed with “regular hits of acute stress,” i.e. short-lived stress. While chronic stress can be toxic, acute stress can be protective and helpful.
• How you view your stress matters. Studies involving 30,000 civil service workers in Britain found “heart disease and mortality rates increased steeply with every step down the ladder.” Low status and lack of control were key factors in that disparity. But, even more interesting was their discovery on beliefs. Those who believed stress impacted their health, regardless of their job or initial health, were found within the 18-year follow up to have double the risk of heart attack. A large U.S. study found the same result about stress beliefs and health. Bottom line? If you view your stress as detrimental, it’s more likely to be. If you believe stress provides you with life’s energy or consider it “a kind of engagement with life,” as health psychologist and author Kelly McGonigal puts it, that thinking will serve you better.
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