WORK-LIFE BALANCE / JUN. 16, 2015
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3 Ways Stress Can Improve Your Health

Stress has earned the bad reputation that it’s received. It can lead to physical health problems such as high blood pressure, arthritis, and heart problems. It often creates tension in relationships that can take a while to remediate. It’s also been linked to mental health problems, such as anxiety and moodiness.

However, stress can also make you healthier. Here are three ways that it does that.

See also: How to Use Stress Productively

1. If You Believe It, It’s True

Do you believe that stress is harmful to your health? If so, then you’re right.

That’s according to a 1998 study. Researchers found that heightened levels of stress can increase the risk of death by more than 40% but only for people who believed that stress was harmful.

On the other hand, researchers found that people who experienced heightened levels of stress but didn’t believe it was harmful had the lowest risk of death of any group in the study, including people who experienced very little stress.

Kelly McGonigal is a health psychologist, lecturer at Stanford University, and author of the book titled The Upside Of Stress: Why stress is good for you and how to get good at it. She believes that far too many people are letting stress kill them simply because of what they believe.

Over eight years, 182,000 Americans may have died prematurely because they believed that stress was harming their health,” she says. “Over 20,000 deaths a year! According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, that would make ‘believing stress is bad for you’ the fifteenth-leading cause of death in the United States, killing more people than skin cancer, HIV/AIDS, and homicide.”

Bottom line: Quit believing that stress is bad for you, and it won’t be.

2. Stress Regulates Your Immune System

When you’re stressed, your body releases a steroid hormone called cortisol. It’s frequently blamed for many of the bad symptoms that accompany stress.

However, cortisol has a positive side, too. It regulates your immune system. With insufficient cortisol in your system, you’re more susceptible to autoimmune disorders.

Cortisol is also an excellent treatment for inflammation. That’s why you’ll find its hormone class (glucocorticoid) in medications that are used to treat rashes and asthma.

3. It Improves Your Workout Performance

You work out, right? If not, then immediately consider the health benefits, both mental and physical, of a good workout routine.

When you do work out, you’ll find that your performance is enhanced when you’re dealing with some kind of stress. This will come as no surprise to you if you’ve previously worked out while handling various stress points.

Shawn Achor is the author of The Happiness Advantage and founder of the Institute for Applied Positive Research, a group that applies modern science to happiness and mental wellbeing. He says that stress is an excellent motivator.

It’s a great example of how the body responds to challenges in our world,” he says. “If you are playing basketball in a high stakes game in a playoff, the brain is working at its optimal level. You’re more alert and better focused, plus the fight-or-flight response may also boost your strength and stamina.”

See also: Become Less Stressed in Just 60 Seconds 

Sure, stress gets a bad rap. However, your attitude about how you handle and channel it can actually make you a healthier person.

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