January 10, 2019
Most people associate stress with negativity — and given the word’s traditional usage, that association makes sense. As defined by the Oxford English dictionary, stress is a state of mental or emotional strain or tension resulting from adverse or demanding circumstances. Despite that gloomy interpretation, some stress can, in fact, be good for you.
Good stress, also called “eustress” by psychologists, is the type of stress you feel when you’re excited. You might experience this kind of stress as you ride a roller coaster, or as you prepare to exchange vows with your spouse during your wedding. You also experience eustress when you’re trying to complete a project or meet a deadline. These events might even trigger your palms to sweat, your pulse to quicken, or “butterflies” to flutter in your stomach.
When your body responds to different stressors, your adrenal glands produce hormones known as cortisol and adrenaline. As a result, you may experience what’s commonly known as an “adrenaline rush” during times of excitement or exhilaration. As long as the effects aren’t long-lasting, a shot of adrenaline allows you to swiftly respond to good stress, so you can perform at your peak.
During this state of heightened performance, stress actually works for you rather than against you. Certain physical functions and senses become enhanced to ensure you’re able to respond to whatever challenge is at hand quickly and effectively. A sudden burst of adrenaline will improve your vision, for example, by causing your pupils to dilate and let in more light. It can also make you breathe easier, as adrenaline tells certain muscles, including the bronchioles in the lungs, to relax.
Good stress works wonders for your immune system, as well. While chronic stress depletes your energy, research shows that eustress-induced adrenaline can have the opposite effect. In small doses, this effect can improve your ability to fight off infection, at least temporarily.
While some stress works to motivate you in the moment, other forms of stress, like chronic stress, which reoccurs on a frequent basis, can cause a litany of complications or other conditions. If you are constantly stressed out, you run the risk of developing mental health problems, such as anxiety or depression. Physical problems associated with negative stress include cardiovascular illness, heart disease or high blood pressure, obesity and other eating disorders, skin and hair irregularities, menstrual problems, and gastrointestinal irritation.
In the end, good stress enables you to perform daunting tasks when necessary. Any side effects of eustress and the ensuing adrenaline rush that typically accompanies this phenomenon are not harmful, nor are they long-lasting.
To be sure your mental state doesn’t suffer due to stress, remain attuned to changes in your mood, and don’t hesitate to contact your doctor if the stress you experience begins to cause serious physical symptoms, like sleeplessness or migraines. By observing your behavior and managing stress properly, you can learn to deal with negative stress, and also to take advantage of the boost good stress can provide your body and your mind.
This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. The information on this web site is for general information purposes only. Always seek the advice of your physician or health care provider on any matters relating to your health.