Although stress has often been associated with its detrimental and damaging effects on the human mind and body, a new study reveals that a certain kind of stress directed in the right direction has a fruitful impact on our brains and helps to boost our thinking skills.
This study paved the way to remold the commonly accepted views about stress and aimed at understanding how it impacts human health and wellbeing.
David M. Almeida, who is the researcher of the study and a Ph.D. professor of human development and family studies at Pennsylvania State University, in the U.S., in a statement mentioned, “It’s possible that experiencing stressors creates opportunities for you to solve a problem, for example, maybe fixing your computer that has suddenly broken down before an important Zoom meeting.”
It is important to note Almeida isn’t talking about chronic stress which is a long and constant feeling of anxiousness and pressure that can majorly impact physical and mental health and impair cognitive function. The research team rather traced the stressors in daily life which can include personal arguments, professional problems at works, annoyance by the general public or messed up schedules as well as symptoms of any chronic health conditions and general mood. They interviewed a total of 5 2,711 participants at the end of each day for eight days.
“So experiencing these stressors may not be pleasant but they may force you to solve a problem, and this might actually be good for cognitive functioning, especially as we grow older,” Almeida adds.
In the surveyed group, about a group of 10% reported no stressors in their daily life, and this same group ended up having the worst overall performance on a pre-study cognitive test than their stressed peers. The study that was published in the journal of the American Psychological Association concluded that the difference in performance was not insignificant and was relatively equivalent to eight years of aging-related mental decline. Thus, in simple words, some levels of stress lay a positive impact in keeping us mentally sharp.
On a completely separate note, Daniela Kaufer, an associate professor of integrative biology at the University of California, Berkeley said, “You always think about stress as a really bad thing, but it’s not.” “Some amounts of stress are good to push you just to the level of optimal alertness, behavioral and cognitive performance,” she added.
However, this helpfulness of stress is linked more on we rise to the challenge than on total count of intensities and worrisome situations.
“Stressors are events that create challenges in our lives,” Almeida said. “… There could be potential benefits to that. I think what’s important is how people respond to stressors. Respond to a stressor by being upset and worried is more unhealthy than the number of stressors you encounter.”
Almeida and his research team also observed that people who were found to be experiencing stress had a higher tendency to give and receive emotional support than the ones who were reported to be stress-free. Thus, the bottom line is that rising to the challenge does not imply that dealing with situations alone, toughing it out, and not addressing the fact that it is a difficult time.
“I think there’s an assumption that negative events and positive events are these polar opposites, but in reality they’re correlated,” he said. “… they might be a marker for someone who has a busy and maybe full life. Having some stress is just an indicator that you are engaged in life.”