Can Stress Be a Good Thing for You? Goodness Investigates

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Crushing deadlines, heaps of emails, and a mounting “To Do” list are all familiar stress factors for the modern-day woman. Then you add work, family, and other relationships to the mix, plus the expectation that “having it all” is so easy (eyeroll), and you’re facing a surefire recipe for a stress meltdown. Even reading that sentence and being reminded of how much is on your plate may be cause for rising blood pressure.

We’ve heard for decades how detrimental stress can be on our health and our waistlines. Stress can weaken the immune system, leaving you susceptible to a whole host of ailments, can cause anxiety and depression, and can lead to overexposure to the stress hormone cortisol, which leads to weight gain and fatigue. Not to mention the fact that too much stress leads to the constant feeling of being overwhelmed and unable to function at normal, healthy levels.

However, stress also serves a purpose: it is a byproduct from our hunter/gatherer days — where we find the origins of why we’re hardwired to respond negatively to oppressive external factors. Back in prehistoric times, when early humans had to fight for survival, stress would trigger a fight-or-flight response to protect them from predators and other threats. Since these aggressive elements are rarely present in today’s modern society, stress has turned into a response to emotional distress, heavy workloads, or unbearably fast-paced schedules.

Using stress as a motivating tool can re-structure how our body responds to it.

Now, there is new scientific evidence to suggest that stress can actually be a good thing. Hear us out: stress has long been associated with negativity and threats, but if we decide to respond to it differently, it can be a positive factor. One study looked at the potential positive benefits of stress, and it found that if people appraise stress as a challenge to overcome versus a threat, it causes a positive physical reaction. Using stress as a motivating tool can re-structure how our body responds to it.

That means that the next time you’re facing an insurmountable week of client meetings, deadlines, work events, and more, you can choose to think of it as a challenge rather than a detriment. This self-evaluation really points to the power of positive thinking, where negative mindsets give up their strongholds and are forced to become agents of positive change in our own lives. So the next time you’re facing a potentially stressful job evaluation at work, start thinking about how the evaluation will give you the insight you need in order to perform your job better, and eventually get that promotion you deserve. The next time your boss adds several new tasks to your already hectic schedule, think about how these tasks will build skills that you can use on your résumé. The next time your assistant forgets to reschedule an important meeting, think of it as a teachable moment that can improve your inter-office communications. There are dozens of ways to make stress your servant, and every one of them points to better mental and physical health.