3 Ways Your Body Benefits From Stress
by Alexandra Mamalider on Mar 24, 2021
More often than not you’re hearing tips on how to avoid stress, ways to reduce stress and coping mechanisms for dealing with stress, but did you know that some stress can actually be good for you?
We’re definitely not advocating for you seeking out stressful situations that would result in chronic stress but rather, next time you’re faced with adversity, instead of suppressing the urge to fight and opting for flight, try facing it head on and even embracing the challenge – you’d be surprised what this can do for your body and mind.
Good stress vs bad stress
You might be surprised to hear that not all stress is bad. The reality is, not all stress is created equal. Stress can be categorized three ways: eustress, acute stress and chronic stress.
Chronic stress is the worst type of stress and one that we hear about most often. It’s the type of stress that can manifest itself in some pretty harmful ways such as anxiety disorders, depression, insomnia, unhealthy weight gain, illness and even disease. When you read about ways to help manage stress and learn about tools to help reduce stress, they’re typically tips that are referring to dealing with chronic stress.
Acute stress is less damaging than chronic stress. Likely you experience acute stress multiple times throughout your day. Speaking physiologically, your body experiences acute stress when it encounters an immediate perceived threat which can be physical, emotional or psychological. These encounters can be as simple as your alarm jolting you awake in the morning, receiving an unexpected phone call or being assigned an urgent work task. You’ve probably also experienced acute stress if you’ve ever been pulled over for speeding (or even thought you were) or gotten into an argument with a friend or family member. When your body perceives a threat, in real time or imagined, your body releases cortisol, adrenaline and other hormones that signal to your body that it’s time to fight or flight. You’ll experience an increase in your heart rate, a spike in blood pressure and even an increase in your breathing rate. These are all physical responses to acute stress. Acute stress mostly experienced only temporarily.
Eustress is referred to as ‘the good stress’. We know what you’re thinking – good stress?! Most people think that all stress is bad and should be avoided at all costs. However some stress, specifically eustress aka positive stress, can actually produce beneficial chemical responses in the body. The feeling of butterflies in your stomach on your way to a first date or when you’re approaching the top of a roller coaster is often characterized as ‘excitement’ but really, you’re experiencing eustress. Eustress can help you stay motivated, work towards goals and feel good about your life, says clinical psychiatrist Dr. Michael Genovese, making it an important part of your overall health.
Eustress can positively impact your body in these three categories:
Eustress can result in positive feelings like contentment, excitement, inspiration, motivation and even euphoria.
Eustress can help improve your resiliency and increase autonomy.
Eustress can help you strengthen your body and immune system through physical exercise
This good type of stress can help to fortify the immune system, motivate you to reach your goals, accomplish tasks more efficiently and even boost your memory. You can benefit from eustress when you’re being pushed outside of your comfort zone and when you encounter and face challenges head on.
So how can you include more eustress in your life? Here are some ways:
- Learn something new everyday
- Take risks (safely)
- Push yourself outside of your comfort zone
- Challenge yourself
- Take on responsibilities
- Set SMART goals
Now that you’re familiar with eustress and the ways that your body can actually benefit from it, you might be wondering what you can do about chronic stress. Click here to read about which foods can help you reduce chronic stress and anxiety.