Little or moderate amount of stress can help improve mental health and improve resilience

Some stress may be good for the brain — but not too much stress.

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New research from the University of Georgia Institute of Youth Development reports that low to moderate levels of stress can help support individuals’ development. The authors explain that such exposure enhances resilience and helps reduce the risk of developing mental health disorders such as depression or antisocial behavior throughout an individual’s life. It also helps people better deal with stressful encounters in the future.

As such, a certain amount of stress may be beneficial to our development, the authors argue—the trick is not to overdo it. Some examples of these beneficial levels of stress include studying for an exam, preparing for a business meeting, or spending some extra time to meet a deadline.

gradual exposure

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

“It’s like you’re doing something hard and you get rough on your skin. It spurs your skin to adapt to this pressure that you put on it. But if you do too much, it’s going to cut your skin.”

When their draft is rejected for an aspiring writer, they face a great deal of it Stress. A person who fails a job interview will find themselves in a similar situation. But rejection can lead the writer to rethink and improve his style, or for the worker to reconsider his strengths and capabilities and whether he wants to stay in the field or branch out into a new field.

Thus, a “good” level of stress can act as a catalyst for our personal development, and make us more resilient in the face of adversity in the future. At the same time, too much stress can leave us feeling tired and stretchy thin, draining our internal resources and potentially making us more vulnerable to unfortunate circumstances should they arise.

The researchers relied on data from the Human Connectome Project, a national project funded by the National Institutes of Health that aims to obtain data on how the human brain works. Data from more than 1,200 young people who participated in this project were used in the study. These participants reported their perceived stress levels through the use of a questionnaire commonly used to measure the extent to which people perceive their lives as stressful and uncontrollable.

The questionnaire included questions such as “In the past month, how often have you been upset by something that happened unexpectedly?” or “In the last month, how many times have you found that you just can’t handle all the things you had to do?”

Apart from their answers here, the study also measured each participant’s neurocognitive abilities using tests of attention span and their ability to suppress automatic responses to visual stimuli. They measured their cognitive flexibility, ability to switch between tasks, image sequence memory (memorizing an increasingly long sequence of objects), working memory, and overall data processing speed. Data on each participant’s anxiety levels (obtained from multiple measures of self-reported anxiety, attention problems, and aggressive behavior) were also taken along with other behavioral and emotional problems.

According to their analysis, the team says that low to moderate levels of stress were actually beneficial to the participants’ psyche. The team explains that it appears to work as a kind of inoculation against mental health symptoms.

“Most of us have had some negative experiences that actually make us stronger,” Oshri said. “There are specific experiences that can help you develop or develop skills that will prepare you for the future.”

However, research also shows that the ability to withstand stress and face adversity is also highly dependent on the individual. Factors such as age, genetic predispositions to certain mental health issues, and having a support network to turn to in times of need all determine how individuals can deal with challenges in their lives, and the stress that comes from these factors.

Furthermore, while a little bit of stress can be good for our brains, incredibly high and persistent levels of stress are incredibly damaging both mentally and physically.

“At a certain point, stress becomes toxic,” Oshri explains. “Chronic stress, such as stress from living in extreme poverty or being abused, can have very bad health and psychological consequences. It affects everything from your immune system, to emotional regulation, to brain function. Not all stress is good stress.” .

The findings shed new light on the issue of stress, which is generally viewed as a universally bad component of one’s life. It shows that certain levels of stress can actually help us stay healthy, engaged, and growing. However, the results also reinforce what we’ve all noticed in our lives: Too much stress is extremely harmful for us. The issue, as always, is that the potion makes the poison.

Research paper “Is perceived stress linked to improved cognitive performance and reduced risk of mental disorders? Hormone Hypothesis Testing” published in the magazine Psychiatry Research.