Is Stress Sometimes a Good Thing?

October 20, 2017

Is Stress Sometimes a Good Thing?

Most of us know it’s no good to be stressed. We’ve heard that this is bad for our health and we know it can make us unhappy. But why exactly is this? What specifically is happening in the body and the brain when we’re stressed? And did you know that sometimes stress can actually be a very good thing?

The Fight or Flight Response

At its most visceral, stress is characterized by the ‘fight or flight’ response. Blood is directed away from our immune system and digestion and towards our muscles and brain and our blood even thickens so that it will be more likely to clot if we get injured.

Chronic Stress

So, stress isn’t a purely bad thing. If you really were in physical danger, then this response could genuinely save your life. But the problems emerge when the fight or flight response doesn’t go away. We remain in a constantly excited state and this means we can go a long time with suppressed immune function and digestion. This makes it more likely that we will become ill or malnourished!

However, stress can also be a good thing. That’s the case when, for example, you need a little bit of motivation to get something done. In this context, the stress is called ‘eustress’ and is highly desirable.

Finally, stress can also be a good thing if you’re able to harness it for good. If you can see your situation not as being dangerous but as being a fun challenge, then you can enter something known as a ‘flow state’. Here we enjoy heightened focus, stronger muscles and improved reactions – but none of the negatives like negative thoughts.

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