Positive and negative stress

Postdate: 20 July 2016

The term 'stress' is often used, but what does it mean exactly? Although stress is often seen as negative, healthy stress or tension can be used in a positive way in the short term. You may even need a certain amount of stress, sometimes, to function well, for example when you have to give an important presentation. Another result of healthy stress is a better focus. This becomes different when it becomes chronic stress.

Positive stress
A small increase in the stress hormone cortisol can result in giving a better performance or focus. This is because it increases your heart rate and the absorption of sugar. A small amount of stress is a kind of acute stress reaction: it brings your body into a state of immediate action, which makes you experience positive energy. You have more discipline and adrenalin, so your concentration and drive are bigger. It also makes you able to perform more in a short amount of time. When the stress or tension ebbs away, these symptoms usually disappear. Healthy stress is often described as some sort of flow. The trick is to experience this 'stress' only in the short term.

Negative stress
When there is a prolonged stressful situation, the body tries to adjust. The result is that the cortisol level increases even more. This means that prolonged stress is something to worry about: it happens when the stress is overwhelming, with all the negative effects as a result. You often recognise stress by sleeping problems and a too high blood pressure. Additionally, you can have headaches, concentration problems, cardiac arrhythmias, stomach and bowel problems, and irritations. These side effects all have a negative effect on each other, so it is easy to find yourself in a vicious circle. This is because your body will find itself in the exhaustion stage when it can no longer adjust itself to the stressful situation. This makes the chance of developing a burnout or depression very likely.

The acute stress reaction is not something to worry about and, up to a certain point, even good. But when the healthy stress turns into anxiety, you have good reason to sound the alarm. You mainly create positive energy by doing activities that give you energy. The word 'must' gives a feeling of obligation, while 'want to' implies an own choice. By planning things such as sports, meditation, uncluttering, and social activities, you can reduce a lot of your stress. Try to realise what is truly important in your life.

'It's all about finding the calm in the chaos'

energy     long-term stress     stress     stress response    


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