The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines stress as a state of mental tension or feelings of anxiety and worry caused by problems in life or work. And more often than not, we view stress as a problem that desperately needs to be avoided and corrected.
According to a survey commissioned by PhilCare called the Philippine Wellness Index, the first of its kind in the country, 41% of Filipinos admitted to experience stress often despite the 85% who said they enjoyed a work-life balance.
But not so fast. Despite the numbers that express the need to relax more, there is significant research to support that stress may actually be good for you.
According to the New York Times, stress isn’t all that bad. “Stress – or at least reshaping the conception of it – may actually keep us healthier.” And more productive.
Citing research done by a psychology professor in Stanford University, the New York Times shared how a simple redefinition of “stress” affects people’s productivity and overall disposition. In this research, a group of employees exposed to the examples of the positive effects of stress – such as sharpened focus like LeBron in a video of him sinking a free throw under pressure – at the time of the experiment, employees performed better when their office was undergoing 10% employee lay-offs. When another group of employees from the same company (with the same chances of getting fired) were exposed to the commonly known negative effects of stress – with a video of LeBron, this time missing a free throw; they fared less than their counterparts.
Stress has its benefits, to name a few: improved focus, speeding up the brain process, and enhanced alertness to danger. Then again, there are also opposite sides to the coin and we know that too much of a good thing can lead to harm.
According to WebMD, prolonged stress leads to a condition called “distress.” This extreme reaction to stress manifests through physical complaints like headaches, upset stomach, fatigue, elevated blood pressure, chest pain and sleep problems, and can even worsen pre-existing conditions especially when people drink alcohol and smoke cigarettes to relieve their stress.
Drinking alcohol can lead to high blood pressure, elevated risk of cancer to the head and neck, stroke and cirrhosis of the liver. Effects of smoking include damaged circulation from narrowed arteries and thickened blood, heart attack, stroke, stomach and kidney cancer, lung diseases and emphysema.
People who are exposed to prolonged and sustained stress are therefore advised to find alternative avenues for stress management. Let us keep in mind that we need to quit our old habits which is necessary to lessen the damages of stress to our body.
According to PhilCare resident doctor Yasmin Dela Cruz, stress is better managed by simply taking a break. “Walk it off, do breathing exercises – really, anything that has a positive effect on the body,” she said. This also includes meditation, exercise, and praying. How Stuff Works even suggests having a good cry to release pent up energy and enhances oxygen delivery to the cells. The idea is more stress out than in.