Ah, stress. It affects everyone. Common causes include work, school, and family. And while it’s annoying to deal with, stress does come with its benefits. This might be hard to believe. How can something so frustrating be good for you? It’s all about the way your body works. It goes beyond the emotions, feelings, and thoughts. With short bursts of stress, you’ll actually thrive on.
Don’t believe it? Check out these five ways of how stress is actually good news:
1. Stress Improves Learning And Memory
Stress can make you smarter. Seriously! It’s all thanks to the release of cortisol, the stress hormone. According to a study by the University of Buffalo, cortisol acts on the brain’s prefrontal cortex (the front portion of the brain). This is the area that regulates learning. Specifically, it works by promoting the transmission of glutamate, the neurotransmitter in charge of memory.1 Remember, these benefits are associated with acute stress, or fleeting situations. As for chronic stress? It’s dangerous for your mental health. Distraction, memory loss, and forgetfulness are likely.2
2. Stress Increases Happiness
Stress isn’t usually linked to happiness. After all, it may feel like the end of the world! Even minor situations, like making a wrong turn, can spark a lot of worry. However, the prefrontal cortex also controls emotion. The brief spike of cortisol will fire it up, promoting happiness and feel-good emotions.3 Plus, you’ll feel relieved once you move past or solve the stressful situation. Again, moderation is key. Too much stress can snowball into depression, anxiety, and other mental disorders. This is exactly why stress relief is vital.4
3. Stress Encourages Response To Danger
In threatening situations, stress sparks the “fight or flight” response. Your body prepares to protect itself. This is why your pulse increases and your muscles tense up. It’s all about survival. The “fight or flight” response even works in minor scenarios. For example, if something goes wrong at work, it’s normal for us to go into damage control. Your mind focuses on fixing the problem, and “surviving” through the problem.5
4. Stress Boosts The Immune System
The “fight or flight” mode also wakes up your immune system. It prepares it for battle, putting your cells on guard. Think of it like a practice for immunity. The more it has to face, the better it can deal with. When there is an actual problem, your body will be ready to fight.6 But if stress piles on, it can work against you. Chronic stress will suppress your immune system and increase risk for sickness and infection.7 Stress-induced insomnia (inability to sleep) won’t help, either.
5. Stress Promotes Motivation
Motivation is fueled by many things: passion, curiosity… and stress.8 It’s enough to kick some people into full gear. For instance, when you’re chasing a deadline, stress makes you productive. There’s nothing like glancing at the time, only to realize you’re cutting it close. It gets the ball rolling.
No one is 100 percent free of stress. Yet, in small doses, it will promote a balanced lifestyle. Don’t be scared of feeling tense once in awhile. Embrace it, and learn from the situation. Work to avoid chronic stress. In turn, you’ll protect your body and brain.
|↑1, ↑3||Baker, Lois. Short Stressful Events May Improve Working Memory. News Center. University of Buffalo, 2009.|
|↑2||How Stress Affects Memory? Effects Of Stress On Memory. Center for Studies on Human Stress.|
|↑4||Stress and your health. Women’s Health, 2017.|
|↑5, ↑7, ↑8||5 Things You Should Know About Stress. Health and Education Publications. National Institute of Mental Health.|
|↑6||Dhabhar, Firdaus. Study explains how stress can boost immune system. Stanford Medicine News Center, 2012.|