“I am really stressed right now.”
This common line usually denotes stress as negative sensation. It may be caused by deadlines, tight schedules, family drama, and health problems. Stress is usually linked to sadness, unhealthy eating habit, and increased risk of serious diseases. This information is true, but did you know that there is a certain type of stress can be actually good for you?
What is Stress?
According to Hans Selye, stress is defined as “the non-specific response of the body to any demand for change”. It is experienced when an imbalance between the resources and a challenge occurs and a person has to deal with it, says Kathleen Gunhert, an American University professor.
Types of Stress
Researchers identified two types of stress: distress and eustress. Eustress is stress in small doses and can actually bring positive effects. It happens when one feels excited and is manifested by quick pulses and hormonal changes but without serious threat. It happens when we apply for job promotion, ride a roller coaster, or go on vacation.
Distress occurs in moderate and controllable level and is not always triggered by happy or exciting events. This is what people usually think of as the stress. According to Psychoneuroendrocinology Journal, eustress can reduce oxidative damage which can lead to disease and aging. Once it has been resolved, the body needs to go back to homeostasis to be happy or healthy.
Chronic stress is experienced when an extended internal or external taxing incident happens and leads to psychological or physiological response. The American Psychological Association says that chronic stress can lead to smaller brain size, increased risk of serious diseases, skin issues, and unhealthy diet.
Three Positive Effects of Stress
As long as moderate stress is managed, one can actually reap all its surprising benefits. Here are some of them:
1. Stress can enhance growth and build resilience
Exposure to moderate stress enables you to master the abilities in dealing with challenges that life may constantly bring. Stress forces you to face your fears and challenges from which you work through them. As you deal with stress, you develop the confidence and skills that are vital for future events.
This is backed up by Richard Dienstbier’s Theory of Mental Toughness. It claims that involvement in some moderate stressful events, with recovery in between, can make a person physiologically and mentally strong and less volatile to future stressors.
On one separate study conducted in UCLA found that “people with a history of some lifetime adversity reported better mental health and well-being outcomes than not only people with a high history of adversity but also than people with no history of adversity” (Seery et al., 2010).
2. Stress can increase motivation
When faced with deadline, for example, you are more likely pressured and focused on the task. Many people go through the times saying “I have got to get this and that done” but are not able to do so because they couldn’t find motivation. Until the deadline approaches and we are stressed to finish it, the motivation kicks in.
3. Stress can help build interpersonal relationships
Social interaction is one of the factors that protect people from the risk of mental and physical health issues caused by stress. People feel less isolated when they are understood by other people around them. Examples are the support groups such as friends and family to whom people discuss their challenges and in return bring out positive hormone and compassion.
“A lot of our friendships or family relationships wouldn’t be the same if we hadn’t supported each other through some of the tougher times,” Gunhert adds.