Stress: the Good, the Bad, the Ugly

Welcome to our blog series about stress! We include research, health facts, and solutions to handling stress in each article.

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Most of us realize that stress is bad for us, but very few of us fully recognize that chronic stress is just as harmful as poor nutrition or no exercise. Even fewer of us realize that there is both good and bad stress – and a healthy way to deal with both.

How Stress Works

We all know the signs of stress – halting breath, sweating, changing heart rates, and more. Behind these symptoms is the “fight-or-flight” hormonal response. When we encounter a stressful trigger, our brains automatically floods our bodies with stress hormones called cortisol and noradrenaline. Stress hormones help us adapt to what the brain sees as a threat. Gradually, our brains and bodies address the stress, allowing the parasympathetic system to return our hormones to normal.

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With momentary stress, this hormonal response is helpful because it can enhance our focus, but with long-term or chronic stress, the parasympathetic system cannot restore the body’s balance. This can cause serious health concerns.

Any long-term stress is chronic stress. Unfortunately, chronic stress deteriorates our natural biological approaches for handling stress as well as our ways for turning stress into positive results. In fact, chronic stress only makes us feel worse; because the parasympathetic system can never give the body relief, people under chronic stress feel drained and irritable.

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Good Stress and Bad Stress

You may have noticed that when you’re excited about an activity, you experience the same signs of stress as when you dread an activity: halting breath, sweating, changing heart rates, and more. This is because your brain and body can’t distinguish between good stress and bad stress.

Good stress can be short- or long-term: moving to a new city, receiving a job promotion, having a baby, getting married, going to college, traveling alone for the first time, going to the movies with friends, training for an athletic event, and more.

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Bad stress can also be short- or long-term: dealing with unemployment, stumbling through an embarrassing moment, earning poor grades, learning of a loved one’s death, living in a noisy, dangerous area, working in a negative or stressful environment, and more.

Our brains and bodies don’t differentiate between the stresses that make us happy (planning a wedding, moving for an exciting new job) and the stresses that make us sad (being unemployed, working in a negative environment). This means that either good or bad stress produce the same chronic “fight-or-flight” stress response, regardless of the trigger.

One Solution For Stress

There is no way to completely eliminate stress from our lives, but we can learn to deal with it in creative, healthy ways. Beyond eating nutritious, balanced meals and maintaining a regular exercise routine, it is always a good idea to express gratitude. It may seem childish to think of saying “thank you” when your boss drops extra work on your desk at 4pm on a Friday, but gratitude reduces cortisol. By expressing thankfulness, we can improve our relationships and experience better connections with people.

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Chronic stress is known for increasing blood pressure, lowering immune systems, causing sleepless nights, and reducing life satisfaction; in contrast, studies show that gratitude lowers blood pressure, enhances the immune system, increases quality of sleep, and boosts life satisfaction. It’s important to counteract stress’s negative side effects by expressing gratitude in our daily lives.

If your stress is too big for gratitude to help, consider using natural herbal supplements to find relief.

Stress Solutions At Nature’s Trail Wellness Center

Schedule an appointment with our naturopathic doctor to learn more about natural remedies for handling stress.

Please comment below to let us know how you deal with stress. We look forward to hearing from you!

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