Stress...not so bad, after all.
“Ugh...you have no idea how stressed I am.”
“I am SO stressed out, I need a vacation!”
“Dude, chill...you’re stressing me out…”
But is stress always bad? As it turns out, stress - both emotional and physiologic - can often be good for us.
Admittedly, consistent and uncontrolled stress is not good for your mind or body. Clinical and epidemiological studies have identified stress as a risk factor for the progression of several diseases including cancer and alzheimers disease and is associated with weight gain and obesity.
Recently, a new school of thought within the sphere of positive psychology is emerging called Post Traumatic Growth. Richard Tedeschi, PhD and his colleague Lawrence Calhoun, PhD have developed a research team at the University of North Carolina, Charlotte, examining the idea that “positive change [can be] experienced as a result of the struggle with a major life crisis or traumatic event.” While there is a plethora of evidence demonstrating that traumatic events can produce negative consequences, it seems as though these same events can lead to perceived benefits: a sense of new opportunity, a change in personal relationships, an increased sense of one’s own strength, a greater appreciation for life, and a deepening of spirituality…all for the better!
Stress is also necessary in your body. While we often think of the physiological consequences of stress - inflammation and free radicals (reactive oxygen species) - as bad, they are actually essential for intracellular communication in your body. For example, hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) is necessary for proper insulin signaling in your body (to maintain blood sugar and feed cells) as well as determining which cells live (because they are healthy) or die (because they are not).
So, next time someone tells you they are “so stressed out” tell them, “I’m really happy to hear that!” (and then be nice and ask them what's wrong...). It’s easy to treat stress as the enemy, but remember it is helping you to survive and become a stronger you! Take it in stride, have a positive attitude, and just keep going.