Is stress good for you?
Last Update: June 20, 2018 at 11:22 am
Is stress good for you?
by Dr Holly
Heard Wednesdays at Noon PST on News for the Soul Radio…
You might think the obvious answer is no. Yet, some stress is in fact good for you. Stress, in fact, is like anything else. Too little or too much is bad for you. But the right amount is good for you.
If you have too little stress in your life, then you may develop boredom and depression. Too much stress on the other hand can cause anxiety and a variety of health issues.
The right amount of stress allows you and your body to operate with optimal attention and alertness cognitively and emotionally. Neurologically, new stem cells will proliferate in the brain – wow, that sounds good. The hormonal reaction allows animals to adapt more effectively.
When studying rats, Dr Kirby found that while stressed rats did not perform well on a memory test two days after a stressful event, they did well two weeks later. Using various types of cell labelling techniques, the new neural cells did not respond initially, but after two weeks, these cells became more mature and started functioning thus allowing rats to do better after two weeks. The stress event triggered the release of a growth factor protein that plays an important part in regulating neurons and cell maturation.
This was of particular interest because deficiency of this same growth factor (FGF-2) is associated with depression in animals and in humans!
How you cope with stress is an obvious factor. How we interpret the world and respond to that interpretation is unique to each individual and significantly contributes to our stress load. But how we hold the stress and deal with the stress load is a major issue:
- Self medicating with entertainment drugs or pharmaceutical drugs can be equally dangerous
- Emotional eating – whether too much or too little can cause obvious problems
- Constricting muscles can cause various problems over time – for instance, chest muscles can constrict the heart
- Holding the stress in your gut can also cause problems from diarrhea to constipation to leaky gut syndrome and various inflammatory gut issues
On the other hand, some healthy coping mechanisms include:
- Avoid caffeine, alcohol and nicotine
- Exercise – usually any kind of physical activity is beneficial, on the other hand, don’t overdo it and create an “athlete’s heart”
- Manage your time more effectively; learn to say no
- Sleep – hugely important but not with drugs that eliminate important stages of sleep
- Talking it out with someone objective
- Yoga & meditation, self hypnosis and other relaxation techniques
- Warm baths/shower with Epsom salts (magnesium gets depleted with stress)
If the manner in which we interpret an event and respond to it provokes an intense acute emotional response – that can cause PTSD or post traumatic stress disorder. Chronic stress on the other hand can provoke issues like:
- Adrenal issues – usually starting with hyper adrenal activity that eventually leads to hypo adrenal activity
- Cardiovascular issues – heart disease, high blood pressure, abnormal heart rhythms, heart attacks, stroke
- Emotional issues – Frustration leading to depression – note they are significantly different
- Hormonal changes – usually on the hypothalamic – pituitary – adrenal axis – adrenals releasing high levels of cortisol and catecholamines
- Metabolic issues – release of various corticosteroids/steroids involved in metabolism of carbs, sugars, proteins and fats and inflammatory responses
- Physiological issues – back ache; tightening of neck and shoulder muscles; headaches; upset stomach/nausea/diarrhea
Stress load is very different for different people. Some people have developed excellent coping mechanisms in life, while others have incredibly low capacity for stress to the point of no coping skills. Most of us fall somewhere in between.
Indicators that your stress load may be too much for you include:
- Cognitive issues – poor concentration, poor memory, poor decision-making capacity; foggy brain
- Fatigue – insomnia or too much sleep
- Feeling overwhelmed
- Irritability, easily frustrated, anger
On the other hand, some people are really good at denial, avoidance and repression and consequently are unaware of how much stress that are actually dealing with.
Some major causes of chronic stress include:
- Toxic relationships at work or at home
- Death of a loved one
- Loss of a job / unemployment
- Overwhelming financial issues
- Ongoing health issues with yourself, your children, your spouse, your parents, etc
- Ongoing emotional issues: depression/anxiety, low self-esteem, anger, guilt, etc)
So again, we how do we determine what is a good stressor and what is detrimental. When stress motivates you; propels you forward; helps you achieve your goals; then perhaps it is a good stress aka eustress. Typically, this kind of stress is a relatively short bout of stress but isn’t around long enough to cause damage.
The bottom line, increase your self awareness. Recognize how you deal with stress. Look at the stressors in your life. Are they working for you or against you and what do you need to do about it if it is detrimental?
Choose wisely, its your life and your health!