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Is Stress Bad for You?

Is Stress Bad For You?

Many people speak of stress in the same way as they might speak of a deadly disease. They may speak of stress as if it were inherently bad, like the E-bola virus.

But the truth is, stress is not always bad for you. Some stress can even be good for you.

This is because humans are adaptive organisms.

Good Stress

As an adaptive organism, your body is designed by nature to respond to its environment. You live in a "Stimulus - Response" world. In other words a "Stress - Response" world.

In order to get a positive response, you need first to impose some kind of stress, which acts as stimulus for the adaptive response.

Three examples of "Stress-stimulus leading to an Adaptive-response":

  • You lie in the sun and expose yourself to a sunlight stress. The result is a beautiful tan and a nice supply of vitamin D.
  • You run around the block and you expose yourself to an exercise stress. The result is a nicer figure and a healthier heart.
  • You enter yourself for an exam and you expose yourself to the intellectual stress of study. The result is a higher level of education and maybe a promotion.

Therefore stress is the beginning of an adaptive response.

Stress is not inherently bad, stress can be good for you.

Bad Stress

If some stress is good, more stress is not necessarily better.

Problems start when you fail to manage the amount of stress that you are exposing yourself to.

  • Too much sunlight will burn you.
  • Too much running will injure you.
  • Too much intellectual stress will cause a mental collapse.

So you need to manage your exposure to stress.

How can you manage stress?

First, you need to understand that all stressors have three components. Intensity, duration and frequency.

  • Intensity: refers to the strength of the stress, for example a sprint is more intense than a jog.
  • Duration: refers to the length of time you are exposing yourself to a single instance of the stress. For example, a five minute run is less stressful than a one hour run, at the same pace.
  • Frequency: refers to the number of times you engage in a stressful situation. Training once a week for example, is less stressful than training every day.

There is an optimum balance between these three components that will produce the perfect balance. A balance between pushing yourself towards ever higher levels of performance, and recuperating sufficiently to allow for recovery from the stresses imposed by the demands of that achievement.

Your task is to manage the intensity, duration and frequency of your stresses so that you remain stressed enough to induce forward progression, but not so over stressed that you lose your capacity to enjoy life or damage your health.

Live in the optimum zone

Balance the intensity, duration and frequency of your stresses, in order to have sufficient stimulus for improvement, whilst managing the stress enough so you can enjoy life. Live in the optimum zone.

Remember that the higher the intensity of the stress, the less frequently you can expose yourself to that stress. On the other hand, the less intense the stress, the more frequently you are able to expose yourself to the stress. It's all about balance.

Quiz: How Good Are You at Managing Stress?

Try our Stress Questionnaire and discover exactly how good you are at dealing with stress.

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