A poll was released earlier this month that revealed exactly how stressed out Americans are, and it turns out one in four people out of 2500 felt a great deal of stress in the past month. Those results don’t sound too good, but there’s at least one doctor who believes stress can actually be a good thing.
John J. Whyte, M.D., MPH, is the former Chief Medical Expert and Vice President of Health and Medical Education at Discovery Channel, and he believes that stress can be beneficial to us, contrary to common opinion. There at least four ways in which Whyte says short-term period of stress can be good, and one way is by improving our memory. Research has shown that occasional stress can improve your recall, due to stress hormones that increase alertness when we need it most. But he warns that too much stress can have the opposite effect, and make your mind foggy. Fun fact: the emergency number 9-1-1 was made partly because research showed that people could only recall three numbers under severe stress. Which makes me think I might be stressed out constantly, because three numbers is always my memory’s limit.
Research also shows how stress can bolster your immune system, since when you get sick, stress creates hormones that fight threats to your health. This stress is most effective at the early stages of illness; but again, too much stress can be counterproductive, and decrease your defenses.
Whyte also thinks that stress can improve your work performance, if you handle it the right way. When you take risks and challenges at work, you can toughen yourself mentally and improve your confidence. Too little stress at work can make you lose motivation, like on a slow day when it seems impossible to get your one task done. Biology aside, another interesting way stress is beneficial is just that: by making things more interesting. Certain stressful situations can lead to great happiness, like talking to someone you don’t know, or asking someone out. Of course, all of these situations refer to short periods of stress, and long-term stress is never a good thing. But as long as you’re having a moment of anxiety, it’s nice to know of all the good it can be doing for you, even if you just feel like destroying something.
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