We tend to think of stress as all bad, but what if it’s not. What if there is an upside to stress? In this post, I’d like to point out a few surprising benefits of stress you might not have been aware of.
The greatest weapon against stress is our ability to choose one thought over another. ~William James
Stress is usually viewed negatively, and there is an abundance of techniques and strategies available on how to deal with it effectively.
But, stress can actually have some surprising benefits too.
Let’s consider stress from a different perspective.
Extreme and long-lasting stress won’t help you.
Chances are if will make you sick and rob you of your dreams.
However, some limited instances of short-term stress can be quite useful.
Let’s consider these following 6 benefits of stress:
1. Stress can help the brain.
A study, titled “Acute stress enhances adult rat hippocampal neurogenesis and activation of newborn neurons via secreted astrocytic FGF2,” found that stress had an interesting impact on the brains of rats.
Researchers found that one of the benefits of stress is that it can make neural connections stronger and help memory.
This applies to short-term stress, however, and not long-term or severe stress.
The study also found that short-term stress can help push the brain to an optimal condition.
This means that the brain is forced to focus better and reach its highest potential.
Maybe you’ve experienced some of this in the past where you were somewhat stressed to get something important complete, and stress helped your focus and ability to press on until the task was complete.
During the study, the rats’ brains improved because stem cells made new nerve cells.
Scientists believe the same thing is happening in human brains under stress.
One of the other benefits of stress is that …
2. Stress can provide motivation.
As said earlier stress can force you to reevaluate deadlines and motivate you to take action to finish things on time.
A looming deadline can make you stressed, but it can also force you to take charge of the situation because you have to.
This provides the motivation to stop procrastinating and complete what is needed.
3. Stress can fortify resilience.
Another benefit of stress is that it can make you more flexible and understanding.
Researchers believe that surviving short-term stress helps build emotional and mental resources, which improves your resilience levels long term.
The more you’re faced with a stressful situation, the less stressful it becomes, as your brain adapts in terms of “labelling” the experience and knowing how to deal with it.
It’s almost as if you become immune to the feelings associated with experiencing a certain stressful situation the first time.
In other words, the more you bungee-jump for example, the less stressful it becomes.
Because as humans, we are very adaptable.
4. Stress can improve your immune system.
Another study, titled “Stress-induced redistribution of immune cells – from barracks to boulevards to battlefields: a tale of three hormones,” found that stress can actually help the immune system.
One of the benefits of stress is that short-term stress can make immune cells jump into action.
The immune system responds to stress by going into active mode.
Researchers believe this developed over time to protect humans.
Evolution allowed people to stay strong and healthy under stress.
Being seriously outmatched by bigger and faster enemies in nature, our ancestors had to adapt to a stressful environment in order to survive.
Hunting a Mammoth with “spears” and rocks only was no doubt a stressful affair.
Yet, in order to survive, they had to adapt.
Another benefit of stress is that …
5. Stress can serve as a signal.
If you feel your body and mind are under stress, then it’s time to evaluate your life.
Stress can be an indication that you need to slow down or make changes.
It can be a warning sign before serious health or life issues arise.
If you feel you’re under constant pressure, take the time to reflect on your concerns about friends, family, work, and other obligations.
Your stress could be telling you that some things may need to be adjusted so that you don’t become overwhelmed or completely stressed out and unable to cope at all.
Speaking about other people, we also know that one of the other benefits of stress is …
6. Stress can strengthen your relationships.
Stress makes the body release oxytocin, a hormone, which can help you feel more connected to others.
The hormone makes you feel like bonding with others and sharing your burdens.
This can help you build stronger relationships with those you love.
It can encourage you to share your troubles instead of letting them consume you.
In Summary …
The benefits of stress can serve your life in a number of ways, but …
Let me just be very clear,
There’s no doubt that living under constant, extreme stress is harmful.
However, short-term stress can have benefits.
It can advantageously affect your body and mind in a variety of ways ranging from motivation to brain activity, which you can use to propel your chances for more success in your environment.
So, next time you feel some stress, don’t freak out and immediately call a psychiatrist.
Take a deep breath, quiet yourself, and spend some time in it to see whether it could perhaps serve you in some way given the thing you’re faced with at that moment.
Again, living under constant, extreme stress is harmful and will make you sick.
And if that’s you, then deal with that accordingly.
Go and see a professional that can help you with that.
But we also know that there are benefits to stress that can help your life and not just hurt it.
It is up to you to make sure you know the difference and act accordingly.
Especially in these times of uncertainty.
I hope you found this helpful.