Benefits of Stress

benefits of stress
Feeling out of control, tense, or fatigued isn’t anyone’s idea of a good time. Neither is being stressed out. But every once in a while, being a little frazzled can actually be a good thing. Mild stress can increase immunity and reduce risk for heart disease, cancer, and Alzheimer’s.
Recent research out of the Stanford University School of Medicine found that short-term bouts of stress in laboratory mice boosted their immune system and protected them from at least one type of cancer. Furthermore, the study found that even after the stressful situation ended, the health benefits tended to last for weeks.

Ohio State University research found similar results. Mice from this study better able to fight the flu if they had been exposed to mild stress. And even though this research was done on mice, researchers believe the results apply to humans, too.

For mice, not being able to find the cheese likely results in a bad day. Equivalent stressful situations for humans might include getting stuck in traffic, being asked to present an idea at a conference, or waiting in line at the bank or a ticket office. While none of these events are life threatening, they do cause the body to react in a stressful manner.

Positives of Stress

“There are a lot of positives associated with short bursts of stress that ease up quickly,” says Edward Calabrese, Ph. D., a toxicologist at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst as he was quoted in an article on MSNBC.

What happens is that stress shocks the body into a repair state. Initially, stress causes the release of free radicals and hormones, such as cortisol. And those are known to lead to tissue damage and diseases such cancer and diabetes. But if the stress is short lived and the body has a chance to calm itself once the stressful event is over, something else happens. The immune system revs up and prepares to fight off disease and tissue damage. The body quickly heals, becoming stronger and healthier. And that’s good news.

But if the body doesn’t have mechanism to heal from stress or the stress continues over a long period of time, any short-term benefits quickly diminish. So key to benefiting from stress is having coping mechanisms to control it, which might include:
  • keeping a journal,
  • exercising, and
  • meditating.

Striking a Balance

Like most all things in life, striking a balance between too much and too little stress is what makes it work. Waiting until the last minute to do banking errands may be the reason the line always seems to be long and unmoving. Preparing for life's little unpleasant moments keeps feelings in control and stress to a minimum.

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