Stress…it’s not all negative.
Stress can happen for many varying reasons, sometimes for long periods, called chronic stress, other times it occurs acutely, for short periods. The ‘stress response’, made up of activation of the sympathetic nervous system (SNS), a parasympathetic withdrawal, and increased activity of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis, is the body’s reaction to demands made on it. This has developed from an evolutional standpoint over time, as a means for an individual to improve physiological and mental functioning to increase chance of survival1.
When we think about stress, we often think of the harmful side of stress, and its role in development of health conditions, such as cardiovascular disease, hypertension and autoimmune conditions2. But is stress always a bad thing? Traditionally, it was thought that this was the case, however recent research indicates that this may not be true3.
It appears that how we view stress impacts how it affects us. If we view stress as a helpful part of life, it seems to be associated with better health, emotional wellbeing and productivity, even during periods of stress. In one study, individuals who see stress as a positive reported having better health than those who view it to be debilitating. In particularly, participants reported fewer symptoms of depression and anxiety while also reporting higher levels of energy1. Further, viewing stress as something that can enhance life resulted in lower levels of cortisol production than for those who viewed it in a more negative light1.
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