Our lives are one big ‘stress ball’ – sounds like a song doesn’t it! Well we are advised endlessly on how to avoid the negative effects of stress itself. But a recent survey has revealed that stress can indeed be a healthy stimulant for the brain and can in fact prolong life and in some cases enhance mental activity.
As someone who has studied psychology and indeed been in therapy myself, albeit as part of my degree education, my very wise counsellor would always say to me if I was feeling the pressure of any situation ‘go with the stress and don’t try to push it away, because if you do it will come back tenfold’. He would also insist, well before his time that a little bit of stress won’t kill you, but indeed would give you the awareness and energy needed to act in certain situations.
A bit like an actress friend who always has first night nerves, which are always viewed as a positive in the theatre, as they give the performers an edge when they appear on stage.
A recent study has revealed that short time stress has a positive impact on the immune system – which is great for fighting infection or healing wounds. In one study, individuals who experienced moderate levels of stress before surgery were able to recover faster than individuals who had low or high levels.
Stress can help us meet our everyday goals at work and at home. The family and financial responsibilities can come with some pressure and stress, but without these elements their endgame would hardly ever be achieved, and as long as the stress does not get out of hand, can help finalize any undertaking, either commercial or domestic. It can even assist with boosting memory.
Technically speaking, when the brain perceives some kind of stress, it starts flooding the body with chemicals like epinephrine, norepinephrine and cortisol. This creates a variety of reactions such as an increase in blood pressure and heart rate. Plus, the senses suddenly have a laser-like focus so you can avoid physically stressful situations — like crossing the road and avoid being run over by a bus!
The key to stress is to keep it under control and not live in a constant state of anxiety. When this happens it can have a negative effect, and there are many self-help books and homeopathic remedies on the market to alleviate this kind of constant pressure without running to your GP and getting hooked on tranquillizers.
We would advise that you pick up Stanford professor Kelly McGonigal’s new book, The Upside of Stress, a fascinating and quick read on some concepts that might just give you an insight into the benefits of stress.
For instance, she states that while we tend to view stress as the enemy, there are actually other beneficial and physiologically positive types of stress; and that making stress to work for you is as simple as changing your mindset and the way you view stress itself. A fascinating and informative read and one that may also change your life.