Good vs Bad Stress: How It Affects You

Good vs Bad Stress: How It Affects You
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Imagine this: you’re a college student during final exams.  The pressure to do well weighs heavily on you; this is your last chance to raise your end-of-term grade a letter or two, so you’re determined and dutifully focused on giving studying extra attention.  Now, consider this scenario: it’s the holiday season.  You’re an employee at a fast-paced, popular establishment and you have several supervisors who have each assigned you a task to complete.  Three customers have asked for your help while you’re still in the middle of assisting another.  You’re also watching the phone for a fellow coworker while she’s taking a fifteen minute break, and it seems like every time you hang up it immediately rings again.  You feel pulled in a million directions at once.  In both situations, feeling stressed is a perfectly normal reaction.  Perhaps you have noticed that stress sometimes motivates you to focus and get your work done, and other times it results in both the inability for you to concentrate and the feeling of being completely overwhelmed.

Stress affects everyone in different ways, but there are two major types of stress.  From the examples above, you might have gleaned that there is good stress — the kind that is helpful and motivates you — and bad stress — the kind of stress that causes anxiety and even health problems if not properly dealt with.  So, what are the benefits and side effects of stress?  How do you know if you’re experiencing too much of it?

 

Benefits

Essentially, stress is a burst of energy that advises you on what to do.  Taken in small doses, stress can have many advantages.  For instance, it can help motivate you to reach your goals at work or your project deadlines for school.  Whether you’re a student or already in the workforce, you’ve probably noticed that good stress can help you accomplish tasks more efficiently and even boost your memory (like all those times you studied hard for a test, did well, and then promptly forgot everything you memorized once the exam was over).

Stress also serves as a warning system, producing the fight-or-flight response.  The brain floods the body with chemicals such as epinephrine and norepinephrine (which lead to increases in heart rate, blood pressure, and breathing) as well as cortisol (which leads to an increase in the production of energy and the inhibition of swelling; over time, elevated levels can damage the hipocampus) when it perceives some kind of stress. This process can create a number of reactions including an increase in blood pressure or heart rate.  Your senses sharpen so that you can avoid physically stressful situations and remain safe.

Small amounts of stress are also attributed with various health benefits.  Researchers believe that some stress can help strengthen the immune system.  For instance, stress can improve how your heart works and protect your body from infection.  In one study, individuals who experienced moderate levels of stress before surgery were able to recover faster than individuals who had low or high levels of stress.

Side Effects

 

Stress is certainly necessary for survival, but as the saying goes you can have too much of a good thing.  The same is true here: too much stress can be detrimental to one’s health. Emotional stress that lingers for weeks or even months can weaken the immune system, in effect causing high blood pressure, fatigue, depression, anxiety, and even heart disease.  If you’re familiar with the popular film Frozen, Elsa is a good example of emotional stress developing into longer lasting depression and anxiety.  It’s worth adding that too much epinephrine can also be harmful to your heart.  Prolonged periods of high blood pressure can lead to a buildup of fatty acids and glucose on blood vessel walls, forcing the heart to work even harder to pump blood.  Over time, this can damage the heart and arteries.

 

Signs of Too Much Stress

 

It can be difficult to distinguish whether the stress you’re experiencing is good or bad, but your body does try to let you know when you are struggling with too much of it.  Keep watch for the following red flags:

 

  • Headaches
  • More colds or illnesses than usual, such as autoimmune diseases flaring up
  • The inability to concentrate and/or complete tasks
  • Irritability
  • Shifts in appetite, such as eating a lot more/less than usual
  • Body aches
  • More anxiety/anger than usual
  • Difficulty falling asleep/staying awake

 

Stress in an inevitable part of life, but fortunately you can learn coping skills to help you manage and improve the way you respond to it.  Sometimes it’s also possible to avoid or even change a situation creating negative stress in your life.

About 

Demelza Young is a recent graduate of Northern Kentucky University. Her current plans are to attend graduate school and to study clinical psychology in the hopes of one day working with eating disordered patients.

20 Responses to Good vs Bad Stress: How It Affects You


  1. I DONT LET STRESS GET TO ME–I STAY BUSSEY AND STAY TO MYSELF MOST OF THE TIME..

  2. faith says:

    This is important to know – so many people only look at the negative aspects of stress.

  3. Leo says:

    It is important to differentiate positive and negative manifestations of stress …thanks for pointing this out!

  4. lisa says:

    I’m always stressed. When I’m stressed I can’t eat, then my husband gets mad at me and yells. That causes it to get worse. I need to learn how to handle it better.

  5. Terri S says:

    Stress can be so bad. This is a great posting. Very informative. Thank you for sharing.

  6. April Farley says:

    My dear husband was working at a job for 7 years that kept him so stressed. He lost so much weight he was barely recognizable. He didn’t sleep. It amazed me how stress can take over your whole body. He left that job , finally, 4 months ago. He has put back on some wight he looks like a brand new guy!
    I do know that stress to some degree is good for ya. Keeps you on your toes. The kind of stress that robs you of your life force .. Ya gotta make changes or it could be detrimental !

    • Demelza says:

      Absolutely. It’s important to keep an eye out for your body’s warning signs before your stress gets too out of hand. I recently had to quit a job, too, because I had already recognized that the situation was taking a toll on me not only physically but mentally as well. When it gets to that point, I think it’s best to get out of the situation if you can. I’m glad to hear your husband was able to do that, too.

  7. melanie Borhi says:

    I had no idea stress could affect you in so many ways, wow I am going to try to reduce my stress as much as I can now thanks for the information

  8. Wanda Tracey says:

    Thanks for all the great information.It’s hard to believe there are so many negative symptoms that go with bad stress but it’s also good to watch out for them and get help if it gets over whelming.Thanks for posting this.

  9. Shannon says:

    I hate it when I am too stressed out. It is hard to let go of it.

    • Demelza says:

      I understand completely. For a long time I felt like kind of a failure because it seemed like I should just be able to cope with all of the stress I was under. That in turn only made me feel even more stressed out. I’ve found that the key is to find ways of coping that work for you and help you manage your stress better. I actually just finished another article that should go up soon about stress management, I hope you’ll find some ideas on there that will help you learn some different ways to help relieve your stress.

  10. kristimcb says:

    its weird how things can affect you… i can tell when i get stressed out how i get tired .. this is a ver good article

    • Demelza says:

      It’s great that you can recognize your body’s warning signs! Lets you know when you need to take a step back and recharge. :]

  11. Michelle S says:

    Stress can really wreck havov on your body. I have a stressful job and am looking for something that reduces that stress. I notice that I don’t sleep well and have been getting sick more often.

  12. Brigid OHara Koshko says:

    Sadly, I am one of those people who enjoys working under a little stress. I am very proactive with work/housework/activities/projects. I try to avoid heavy stress by planning but but I seem to get an extra push when I have a little pressure added to my work.

  13. Karen Jaras says:

    Stress and a bad injury come hand-in-hand and the only way to deal with it is to find new interest that keep your mind busy and as much physical exercise as you can handle.

  14. MJ Dee says:

    First, let me compliment the writer of this article. Very well written and thought provoking. For someone who recently graduated from college, you are sure to be a success in your field!
    It’s interesting that there is a “good” stress, but the way you wrote it made so much sense. I see that in myself and how the good stress does motivate me! As far as bad stress, I have way too much of that in my life…just need to learn how to deal with it better.
    Thanks for a great write-up!

    • Demelza says:

      This was such a sweet compliment, it really made my night! I’m glad you enjoyed the article. I hope the bad stress in your life eases up on you.

  15. Tamara Terni says:

    Stress is an everyday fact in our lives. I think most people have more bad stress that good. I have felt both bills give me bad stress or health issues, but I have experienced good stress to when I worked my boss would heave a ton of challenges on me. I enjoyed this and it motivated me to finish the tasks she gave me. when I finished them I had a great feeling of accomplishment.

  16. Tina F says:

    stress now a days is very hard to get away from. BUT we can aways try and calm ourselves by taking breaks where there is quietness and peaceful It may be a short period of time but it is important to do

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