Can Stress Be Healthy?

Many people living today are under the impression that stress is a bad thing. Stress is something that many spend a massive amount of time trying to mitigate. In doing so, we can help lead ourselves to longer happier lives, or so I thought. My initial goal was to blog about the mass negative effects that stress has on a person’s life. However, as I was researching this topic, I found something was rather odd. Instead of a numerous of articles explaining the negative effects of stress, what I found was actually the exact opposite. According to most sub headers found in my initial Google search, the stress we see in our life may actually do more positive than negative.

The first major discovery made in this new search was the importance of differentiating the type of stress an individual is experiencing. A University of Stanford article offers an examination into this difference in their article Good Stress, Bad Stress. In this, Firdaus Dhabhar explains how stress can be broken down into two categories: short term stress, which is “experienced during most day to day living experiences” and long term stress. He argues that short-term stress can be easily dealt with by healthy people just as long as these individuals experience long durations where their body can rest. This short term stress is seen to have little impact on a persons health due to its short duration of actual occurrence, as opposed to heavy stress which is described here to be stress that causes our body to react to stress for months. This article can be seen as helpful because it shows an understanding of the vast nature of stress and how it comes in many different forms. It is this very distinction of “short term stress” which further studies use in order to argue it’s positive nature.

A British publisher, The Telegraph, claims that the perception of stress as not only short term but as a positive can help change what it does for an individual. “The key is changing how we think about it ” argues health physician McGonigal. She claims that once an individual embraces stress as something positive in their life, they will “transform fear into courage” and “suffering into meaning”.  Further, in a study highlighted in this article, a group of Americans were asked whether or not they thought stress had a negative impact on their life. After this, the study then used records to discover who among the group had died. It found that among those who believed stress had a negative effect, 43% had an increase risk of dying. In contrast, those who chose not to worry about the great deal of stress they faced were less likely to die than those who not only believed stress was negative, but also those who experienced little stress. The key difference of this discovery is the sure perception of stress. If a patient  really wanted to decrease their likelihood of death they would have to embrace their stress as something good.

Another study along these same lines inPub offers further explanation on the good of stress on a biological scale. They claim that the importance of stress doesn’t necessary lie with what it does during the initial experience, but how it prepares us for future conflict. It argues that short term stress can “be productive as it prepares the organism to deal with challenges”. A biological review of short term stressed has shown here that short term stress is a misunderstood survival mechanism that can “be clinically harnessed to enhance immunoprotection”, while also enhancing “innate/primary and adaptive immune responses”. The study offers many different biological mechanisms (such as cell trafficking) as to why this may be, but the conclusion remains constant; stress is a biological necessity to the preparation of life struggle.

The process of categorizing stress as either major or minor can be key to the determination of whether or not it will improve your health or hurt it. The major limitations with these discovery of minor stress vs major stress is what we perceived as which. Each individual is very different, and one person might experience a stressful situation differently than another. According to a NBC article, stress is a “matter of perception”. The only way we can begin think of stress as a good is if we can make a baseline for what is “good stress”, which is impossible to say based on different personalities. A key change to certain studies on stress could be what each individual considers moderate stress and what they consider major stress. These individuals can then be separate and later studied to see death rates.

Though there is much to consider, it still is a fair argument to make that the more we look at our stress (any stress) as a good rather than a bad, then we have a major potential to improve our lives.


5 thoughts on “Can Stress Be Healthy?

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  4. John Michael Federici Post author

    I really have found in life that most problems that can cause emotional problems (such as stress and anxiety) can have such a negative impact on our lives. It amazing though that the answer to solving this problem isn’t eliminating the stress in our lives, but simply looking at it in a different way. You should also take a look and my other blog post, that takes a similar approach in looking at the effects of procrastination.

  5. Sarah Rose Peterson

    I was interested in reading your blog because I have always thought of and talked about stress in a negative way. I know stress can be severely detrimental to your physical and emotional health. This article describes some of the negative results of stress I have heard of:
    However, after reading your blog, I now understand that some stress can be good for you, as long as you have an optimistic perception. With a better viewpoint, you can learn to better manage life’s stresses- both the positive and negative ones.

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