Stress. This six-letter-word conjures images of mental anguish, staying awake at nights, and struggles to cope with demands at work or at home.
From the time we were young studying for exams to fighting to meet deadlines as working professionals–stress has been our constant companion.
But what is this dreaded stress really?
Stress is actually the body’s natural defence against danger and predators. Stress flushes the body with hormones to help confront danger or evade it, causing the ‘fight or flight’ mechanism in the body.
The body starts producing larger amounts of cortisol, adrenaline, and noradrenaline which trigger increased heart rate, heightened muscle preparedness, sweating, and alertness.
While stress can be caused by a number of reasons, ranging from finances and relationships to other situations–it is not wholly negative. Because stress may also have a host of social benefits.
Yes, stress has benefits to offer too
A study published in the journal Stress & Health found that experiencing stress made people more likely to give and receive emotional support from another person.
According to David Almeida, one of the authors of the study, while stress can certainly have negative health outcomes, there are potential benefits too. Study researcher Hye Won Chai reveals that women tend to engage in giving and receiving more emotional support than men when stressed.
However, that is not the only benefit stress has to offer.
It boosts cognitive function
Scientists in an experiment with lab rats found that brief events of stress caused stem cells in the brains of rodents to create new nerve cells, resulting in better mental performances after two weeks. The study was carried out by the University of Berkeley.
It could possibly answer why often people function better under stressful situations.
It offers protection against the cold
Turns out that being stressed out can perhaps protect you from infections. Moderate stress facilitates the production of interleukins in the body which boosts the immune system and protects against illnesses. However, chronic stress has a negative effect on the human body.
It also aids child development
A Johns Hopkins study in 2006 followed 137 women from mid-pregnancy to the second birthday of the children. The study found that babies who were born to mothers who had experienced moderate stress during pregnancy had more advanced development skills by the time they were two years old.
That said, here’s a recap of all the ill-effects of stress
While stress can be a motivator, if the mechanism is triggered too easily, it can become harmful for a person’s mental and physical health.
Short-term stress can be helpful, but long-term stress is linked to various negative health conditions.
According to various medical reports, chronic stress seems to worsen conditions like obesity, heart disease, diabetes, depression, asthma, Alzheimer’s and diabetes.
Stress can also directly increase heart rate and blood flow, which releases cholesterol and triglyceride into the bloodstream leading to heart risks.
Bottomline? Stress can be good for you but in moderation. If you’re exposed to situations that incite stress daily, then it’s time to indulge in some stress management for the sake of your health.