Saturday, 10 Dec 2022

Some types of stress could be good for brain functioning: Low to moderate levels of stress may help build resilience while reducing risk of mental illness

It may feel like an anvil hanging over your head, but that looming deadline stressing you out at work may actually be beneficial for your brain, according to new research from the Youth Development Institute at the University of Georgia.

Published in Psychiatry Research, the study found that low to moderate levels of stress can help individuals develop resilience and reduce the risk of developing mental health disorders, like depression and antisocial behaviors. Low to moderate stress can also help individuals to cope with future stressful encounters.

“If you’re in an environment where you have some level of stress, you may develop coping mechanisms that will allow you to become a more efficient and effective worker and organize yourself in a way that will help you perform,” said Assaf Oshri, lead author of the study and an associate professor in the College of Family and Consumer Sciences.

The stress that comes from studying for an exam, preparing for a big meeting at work or pulling longer hours to close the deal can all potentially lead to personal growth. Being rejected by a publisher, for example, may lead a writer to rethink their style. And being fired could prompt someone to reconsider their strengths and whether they should stay in their field or branch out to something new.

But the line between the right amount of stress and too much stress is a thin one.

“It’s like when you keep doing something hard and get a little callous on your skin,” continued Oshri, who also directs the UGA Youth Development Institute. “You trigger your skin to adapt to this pressure you are applying to it. But if you do too much, you’re going to cut your skin.”

Good stress can act as a vaccine against the effect of future adversity

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