Growing up, we were always told not to worry about things we couldn’t control. Regardless of whether worrying about whether that baseball game would get rained out, worrying about that plane getting in on time, and worrying about the grade on that test were all things virtually out of our control. Despite the warnings, we stressed about this anyways. These and so many more issues kept us up at night, leeching our energy, and spread to those around us.
We were told over and over that we shouldn’t worry about these things because they were unhealthy for us. They would cause us to age prematurely. They would hurt the ones around us. They would make us crabby, irritable, and unpleasant to be around.
The irony about all of this is that this discussion made us even more stressed out. Every time someone yelled or screamed at us to stop worrying we would stress out even more. Some of us even worry about these things chronically. The stress could permeate our lives so much that some of us even ended up in counseling for help dealing with this. This can cause major embarrassment and adversely impact our lives.
Recently, new research has come out showing that this stress may actually be good for our lives. Psychiatrists, psychologists, and other health professionals have been studying stress for years. With the recent influx of these issues into the regular news cycle, the improved attention has been good for research into stress, more specifically its causes and effects. These professionals have come up with several benefits that stress could potentially add to our lives. For a few of these new discoveries, read below!
1. Causes you to increase your focus and neurological function
Stress causes all of us to be more focused on the tasks at hand. It keeps us awake because we’re worried about the adverse effects of the events we’re stressed out about. This is because stress leads to the increased production of neurotrophins, a group of brain chemicals released when we need to focus. These chemicals are also released when we exercise. This increased focus can boost productivity and concentration, according to modern health professionals. In this fashion, exercise and stress can exert similar effects on your brain. Further studies in animals have shown that stress can increase memory function as well.
2. Improves the function of the immune system leading to improved defenses against infection
It’s no secret that stress increases our awareness to the adverse effects of the events around this. This even goes for your body on the cellular level. Stress prepares the body to fight against injury or infection. This causes the body to produce extra cell components called cytokines, specifically interleukins. These interleukins are responsible for the regulation of our immune system, the part of our body that fights off infection. Recent animal studies have demonstrated that when these animals are stressed, the white blood cells of the immune system increase. This is likely due to the increased interleukins in our blood stream.
3. Stress breeds resilience
On the mental level, dealing with stress teaches people to withstand adversity and increases perseverance and dedication. People who have had to face disappointment and the risk of failure are better adept at dealing with stressful situations in the future. This should make sense. The more time you spend preparing and practicing for something, the better you are at it. This is the same for stress. The more time you’re exposed to stress the better equipped your are to deal with stress, and by extension adverse events and situations, in the future.
4. Stimulates production
We’ve all been in school and felt the pressure of approaching deadlines. Often, these situations were the impetus for improving our productivity. The popular comic book series Calvin and Hobbes demonstrated this beautifully. Calvin is seen playing with his toys in the sandbox with a large paper due soon. He states that he isn’t in the proper “mindset” for writing a strong paper. The mindset he’s waiting for is last-minute panic. This comic was successful because people could relate to this. Stress clearly stimulates production. This serves us well in the long run.
5. New studies have shown that stress can enhance child development
Recent studies have also demonstrated that pregnant women who experience moderate amounts of stress during their pregnancy gave birth to children who hit motor and developmental milestones earlier compared to the control group. While this study only followed children until the age of two, this study holds promise for future childhood development. The only downside to this study is that these women viewed their pregnancy in a negative light. These two results should both be taken into consideration.
6. Lowers risk of death
As above, people know that stress can improve focus, attention, and concentration. It only makes sense that people would be more aware of their surroundings. This makes sense that if people are more aware of their surroundings they have a lower chance of dying in an accident. Focus when boarding trains, crossing streets, and filling up at the gas station are all important because you never know what might happen. Multiple studies have demonstrated hypothesis to be true. Stress improves focus, making people unlikely to be involved in fatal accidents.
7. Makes you more aware of your limits
Only by being placed in stressful situations can people learn their limits and push themselves to new heights. People are always told to venture outside their comfort zones, to try new things, because you never know what might be on the other side. Practicing something new is always an uncomfortable, stressful situation. Engaging in these stressful situations and trying new experiences leads people push the boundaries of what they thought was possible. Whether its sports, music, or academics stress pushes us to the limits. Therefore, this stress drives people to push the limits of what they thought they were capable of.