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Question Your World: Can Stress Be Good for You?

Seems like more often than not when stress comes up it’s followed with advice on how to avoid or get rid of it from our lives. While stress does have many negative aspects, there are a few things that you actually need stress for. In that case, can stress be good for you? Listen to this Question Your World radio report produced by the Science Museum of Virginia to find out.

400 million cups of coffee are consumed daily in the United States. Clearly we’re busy doing a lot. With that said, that means a lot of people are stressing getting a lot of stuff done. Stress is a very common occurrence in our lives, but there are indeed two types of stress. Long term and short term stress both have very profound impacts on us, but in two very different ways.

Long term or chronic stress like living in dangerous environments, constantly having financial worries, working in hazardous places, and so on are incredibly damaging to our lives, mentally and physically. However, short term stress seems to have quite the opposite impact. Recently scientists observed that short term stress actually helps heal the skin a little quicker. The tests were conducted on mice, but the impacts apply to most mammals including us. While studying their subjects scientists noticed a biological and physiological reaction to short bursts of stress in relation to how skin heals.

During bouts of short term stress, for us it would be things like going on a run or visiting a place we’re not familiar with, the adrenal glands are activated. This will release adrenaline into the system which helps spread glucocorticoids, a mild naturally occurring steroid in our body. Remarkably this comes down to a balance. If the body produces too many of these then the negative impacts will kick in, so long term chronic stress yields this harmful result. If given in short bouts this natural steroid helps advance the healing of skin!

So, situations that cause the good kind of stress are very important to the body. Riding a bike, working on a tight deadline, or learning a new language all promote the positive impacts of stress. So, get busy challenging yourself, it’s good for you! We can’t possibly stress this more, folks!

Article by: Prabir Mehta, Science Museum of Virginia

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