I have already talked about it on more than one occasion, yet I still haven’t flat-out said whether or not is stress good a bad for you.
Sure, I discussed plenty of the disadvantages of stress throughout my articles – with it being so heavily related to anxiety, it’s only natural.
Yet it doesn’t have to be a bad thing, listing off some pros and cons of stress will prove you that much.
The human body is brilliantly designed, if stress truly had no benefits then you would think that we would cast it aside, right?
You would be right to think so, stress does have some benefits.
Fundamentally, stress is a tool.
It is meant to take us out of a tight spot, it’s a biological reaction that has saved our species many times over.
To put it simply, stress is a survival mechanism.
Survival is an issue that doesn’t really concern us in this century, but stress does have its advantages.
Under the right conditions, stress can be very beneficial.
Still, those conditions need to be met in the first place for you to achieve any worthwhile results, and in our daily lives, it’s far more likely that your encounters with stress will end poorly.
Alright, so let’s review the cons of stress
In order to explain my position on stress, we need to go through some of the disadvantages and find their common ground.
What makes stress such a hassle for most of us? It was meant to be a good thing for the most part.
Sure, some things, such as making decisions. are directly damaged due to stress, but stress is meant to be a life-saver.
So why doesn’t it act the part?
1) It strains the mind
Stress isn’t easy on the mind.
When we are stressed we tend to experience this “heavy” feeling on our consciousness.
It seems overwhelming, and it tires us out very quickly – often times to the point where we can’t seem to do anything but cry at our own struggles.
And it shows.
Research tells us about a direct relation between depression and living a stressful life.
Not only that, but there is also data to indicate that specific stressful events can lead to depression.
A study from Denmark has tested 13,006 participants over the course of 17 years (1981 – 1998) and came up with the conclusion that specific, stressful events in our lives increase the likelihood of us experiencing depression.
The same type of data claims the same for anxiety.
The list obviously goes on and on, and it shouldn’t be much of a surprise.
Anyone who has experienced stress should know that stress is very difficult to cope with.
Even specific events can cause trauma and have devastating results on our mental health.
When experiencing stress our thoughts become obsessive, something which leads us to experience anxiety and depression as a direct result of it.
Keep this point in mind, we will come back to it later on.
2) It strains the body
Writer and lecturer Dale Carnegie has once said that stress is the number one reason for people to end up in the hospital.
Some people don’t take stress nearly seriously enough, and although it feels terrible they don’t attribute any further medical conditions to it.
Sure, everyone has heard about blood pressure rising in accordance with stress, we have all heard about how stress causes cardiological problems and so much more.
Yet very few people actually listen to all of these warning signs.
You would think that more of us would like to avoid ending up in the hospital over a heart attack, yet we still choose to live our stressed-out lives as-is.
- It can lead to disease
- Stress can cause brain damage over time
- It may damage your gums and teeth
- It’s plain bad for your bones
- It causes us to age faster
- It can lead to stomach aches and nausea
The funny thing is that very few people bother to make a change in their lives, even if they are fully aware of the risks.
Stress in our daily lives is unavoidable, and we often time willingly subject ourselves to stressful lives, believing that they end result is worth the struggle.
Our jobs, Our families, our civic responsibilities.
For most of us, those are unavoidable, yet they inflict upon us long-lasting harm.
It makes you wonder whether or not these effects are worth it
3) It messes up our emotions and thinking
I’ve already talked about this briefly, but when you experience stress you tend to have heightened emotional reactions to situations.
You get overwhelmed easier, you are much more prone to make impulsive (bad) decisions and you suffer greatly from every little inconvenience that gets in your way.
There is a very good reason for that.
When experiencing stress, your body shuts down your Pre-Frontal Cortex (PFC for short).
This part of your brain is directly related to your ability to think logically, weigh choices and overcome meaningless distractions.
In a way, this is a perfectly legitimate reason… for a caveman.
When faced with danger you need to find a way out of it, no matter what.
As such, your brain doesn’t filter any thoughts or distractions that come its way, maybe one of them will end up freeing you from whatever trouble you found yourself in.
Yet this results in you making some pretty bad decisions, snapping at people for no reason and complaining at random times over something that you would have normally overlooked.
It kind of loses a lot of its appeal when the most dangerous situation you find yourself in is finishing a report in time for your boss.
The fact that you are so easily distracted doesn’t help either.
What about the pros of stress?
There is a recurring pattern among the cons of stress, I will point it out soon enough.
For now, let’s see why stress can be such a good thing.
1) It temporarily boosts our brain power
So I’ve talked about how the brain doesn’t really filter distractions, but it is capable of handling them.
Stressors end up stimulating the process of neurotrophin creation inside the brain and strengthen the connections between neurons, essentially improving your memory and cognitive ability for a short while.
Experimentation in rats vastly proves this point.
2) It forces us to take action
We all have this “comfort zone” around us, a set of terms and conditions that we wouldn’t normally defy.
Waking up in 2 a.m in the morning to finish up some work? Better just come up with an excuse.
Driving to some meeting 6 hours away? Nah man, I am better off skipping the whole thing.
Helping my son with his homework just after I came up from work? Meh, he’s a big boy, he can do it alone.
Yet life doesn’t work that way.
The clock continues to tick, and if you want something badly enough then it will happen
Stress makes the “want” part, by the way.
Stress will wake you up at 2 a.m to finish your work.
It will force you to drive from one side of your country to the other for some dumb meeting
And it will make you sit with your kid until 11 P.M if you take his educational situation to heart.
Stress forces you to take action, it makes you do things that you normally wouldn’t have and forces you to take your comfort zone and throw it into the nearest dumpster.
3) It pushes you to your limits
Back when I was a soldier we were put under a routine of discipline that we were forced to adapt to as quickly as possible.
While it wasn’t nearly as bad as it could have been, it still wasn’t the most pleasant experience.
Even so, we pushed on and ended up meeting our deadlines quicker and quicker each time.
You see, the human is a type of creature that adapts, and some level of stress is perfectly healthy.
Not only that, it also increases your overall “mental resilience”
According to research, moderate levels of perceived stress were largely beneficial to fight against future stress.
So yeah, stress is something that you can get used to and even resist.
Good stress doesn’t last for long
And that’s the pattern here.
Sure, distractions may end up causing you to experience heightened emotional reactions, yet the brain is perfectly equipped to handle them.
Anxiety is the real source of the problem, making the amygdala more prominent and making you more susceptible to distractions.
And that’s the thing.
Short-term stress is great, it benefits your mental health over time, it forces you to take action, it increases you cognitive abilities and it even boosts the immune system (when it’s moderate)
Yet the body isn’t equipped to handle long-term stress, we weren’t meant for this kind of experience and it shows.
Long-term stress damages both our body and mind, and it’s something that you might avoid at all costs.
Your health is more important than an extra working hour, after all.
Here’s a question – In your case, is stress a positive or negative experience?
Make sure to write your answers in the comment section below – I read every single one of them!
If you got any questions please feel free to send me an email about them and I’ll reply as quickly as I can.