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Is Stress Good or Bad for Your Health?

Some people when they experience stress, end up with depression, while others seem to excel and perform to a higher standard. This raises the question, is stress good or bad? But the answer isn’t as simple as the question. It depends on you, your unique characteristics, and body chemistry. And it also depends on the situation you find yourself in as well as how long it lasts.

Is Stress Good or Bad for You?

Is stress good or bad for youStress has only recently become an object of study. In modern society, stress is seen as the natural result of meeting adult responsibilities and striving to be your best self. This has created a time of innovation, but it also has had health consequences. Long term stress can be very unhealthy and even deadly, which has led to lots of concern about it. But being concerned about stress is unhelpful, especially when not all stress is bad. That’s why you must understand the stress and its various forms.

The question, is stress good or bad for your health, depends heavily on the type of stress you experience. There are two main types of responses to stress, eustress, and distress. If you’ve ever met someone who says that they’re immune to stress, then it’s probably because of these different responses rather than an absence of stress in their lives. No one is immune to feeling stress, but some people respond to it differently. And as with most things in life, it’s your perception of your emotions that determine whether you experience the positive effects of eustress or the negative emotions of distress.

What is Eustress?

The term eustress is used to imply a more positive reaction to stress. Cultivating a positive response to stress means that you remain focused, motivated, have vigor, and stay hopeful. These positive responses usually depend on several factors including your feelings of control over the situation, your desire to be in the situation, and the timing of the stress trigger. Some common causes of eustress include:

  • Marriage
  • New work responsibilities
  • Travel to a new country
  • The birth of a child
  • Leaving home to go to college

Eustress is important for your overall health. It promotes positive feelings such as:

  • Excitement
  • Fulfillment
  • Satisfaction
  • Well-being
  • The feeling that you’re living outside of your comfort zones.
  • Meaning
  • Self-confidence
  • Autonomy

Eustress also allows you to grow without completely expending all of your mental, emotional, or physical resources. Whether you feel eustress because of a good workout, a completed work project, a trip to a foreign country, or because of emotional work, it’s a sign that you’re growing and getting stronger. That’s why it’s essential for your continued growth and development.

What is Distress?

Is stress good or bad, or does it all come down to how you handle it?Distress is the other type of pressure you may experience during a stressful situation. It’s most often seen and experienced as negative. This kind of stress is often caused or worsened by feelings of being out of control or feeling responsible for things that can’t be changed. Distress can cause you to withdraw, feel anxious or depressed, or at times become angry. Common causes of distress are:

  • Losing your job
  • Illness
  • Injury
  • Abuse or neglect
  • The death of a loved one
  • The end of a marriage

A Strong Connection

So, is stress good or bad for you? The answer is that it’s both. And it doesn’t help that eustress and distress are strongly linked and can seem interchangeable. This is why too much good stress can easily turn into bad stress. Depending on how determined you are, you can also change distress into eustress. The important thing is to remember is that stress doesn’t just happen to you. You can manage and control your experience.

Stress management is the process of understanding the differences between and limitations of distress and eustress. It allows you to determine your limits and better recognize when eustress escalates to distress. Stress management classes or lessons can also teach you to counteract the physical toll of strong emotional responses to pressure. Learning how to counteract these emotions will not only teach you to turn the distress into eustress, but it will also benefit your overall well being. These types of courses often incorporate meditation and relaxation techniques to lower your physical responses to stressful stimulation.

The Body's Response to Stress

The answer to the question of whether stress is good or bad for you depends on how your body deals with stress in general. Stress is the body’s response to a perceived threat. When you experience sudden stress of a severe nature, your heart rate, and breathing rate increase, your body releases glucose for energy, and your digestive activities decrease. This and other responses occur as a part of your body’s NeuroEndoMetabolic (NEM) stress response, which helps prepare your body to cope with stress.

What happens in your body when you’re confronted with a short-term stressor is that the hypothalamus, which is part of the hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis, sends signals to the pituitary and adrenal glands. The pituitary gland secretes adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH) which stimulates the adrenal glands to produce cortisol and adrenaline. This causes you to feel the urge to fight or flee from the threat.

Adrenaline and cortisol have numerous functions during stressful times. They keep blood sugar levels high to fuel your response and to help the body return to a ‘normal’ state after the threat has passed. During this period, functions that are perceived as non-essential to survival are repressed.

Acute Stress vs. Chronic Stress

While the threat remains, your body and mind stay on high alert, allowing for clarity of mind and the focus needed to deal with the specific threat. And once the stressor has passed, all of your body’s systems go back to their normal functionality.

However, chronic stress is a different matter. The long-term activation of the NEM stress response results in constant, high levels of cortisol and adrenaline. This chemical overload ultimately disrupts the body’s normal processes. The adrenal glands become fatigued because of the increased workload, and can even start to degrade, resulting in Adrenal Fatigue Syndrome (AFS). The result is imbalances in the body’s circuits as well as stressful symptoms and increased risk of certain health problems, such as:

  • An image of a woman's stomach showing inflamed intestines underneath the skinAnxiety and/or depression and/or mood swings
  • Weight gain/problems with digestions
  • Brain fog/memory problems/difficulty concentrating
  • Sleep issues
  • Headaches/migraines
  • Heart problems

So, is stress good or bad for you? This question is related to the ideas of acute and chronic stress. Both acute and chronic stress can manifest as either distress or eustress. However, chronic stress is far more likely to become distress and cause damage to your body as well as to your long term health. The key to alleviating chronic stress and turning the distress into eustress is to implement strategies to better manage any stress that you experience.

How to Manage Stress

Is stress good or bad for you? Well, it all depends on how you manage it. And you can learn to do that better with the following strategies:

Identify the Source

The first thing you need to do is to identify all the different causes of your stress. Then you can work on eliminating or reducing them where possible or learning to accept and adapt to them.

Stay Active

Moderate physical activity helps relieve stress as it releases endorphins which are ‘feel-good’ hormones. It is also great to help combat any extra weight gain that occurs as a result of stress.

Identify your Bad Habits

Chances are that you’re contributing to your stress. So, work on identifying and changing the things you do that add to the problem. For instance, if you are a procrastinator and this habit adds to your stress, change the habit.

Adopt a Healthy Lifestyle

Make lifestyle changes that reduce your stress levels, i.e. stop smoking or drink less alcohol. Instead, take more time for yourself by starting a hobby.

Healthy Eating

Take a look at your diet and make necessary changes. Eat foods that are slow energy releasing instead of, for example, sugary foods.

Learn New Things

Try to work on learning something new every day. This introduces more eustress into your daily life and shifts your focus from bad stress.

Set Goals

You need to get out of your comfort zone to experience eustress, so work on setting professional and personal goals that you’re excited about and that will give you things to work towards.

Sleep

Establishing good sleeping patterns is one of the best things you can do to reduce stress. So, keep a sleep diary and see if you need to make any changes to your sleeping routine.

Meditate

An image of a woman meditating on a rocky shorelineMeditation is incredibly effective at reducing stress. Just twelve minutes a day will have benefits for your mindset, so find a practice that works for you and practice it daily.

Look for a Therapist

If you’re struggling, then a professional can help you find new and better ways to cope as well as providing you with a sympathetic ear. So, don’t be afraid to reach out for help if you need it.

Look for the Positive

Not every stressful situation has positive points to it, but some do. Instead of focusing on the bad side of things, look for the good wherever possible. This will help you find opportunities in stressful situations rather than the problems.

Is Stress Good or Bad - Summary

So, is stress good or bad for your body? Stress, in the short term, has no adverse negative effects. It is a mechanism that allows for quick thinking and reaction in certain situations. Long-term stress, however, has negative consequences that could result in adrenal fatigue and thus a dysregulation in the HPA system. The resulting health problems experienced can be extremely debilitating, which is why you need to work on stress management with the following ideas:

  1. Identify the causes of any stress you experience and try to reduce or eliminate them.
  2. Adopt healthy habits like a good diet, regular exercise, meditation, and focusing on learning new things.
  3. Seek out professional help if you’re struggling and can’t see a way out of your distress.

If you want to learn more about stress and how it impacts your body, the team at Dr. Lam Coaching can help. We offer a free** no-obligation phone consultation at +1-626-571-1234 where we will privately discuss your symptoms and various options. You can also send us a question through our Ask The Doctor system by clicking here.

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