We’ve been told for decades that stress
is really bad for us. It’s bad for our health for our well-being and even for our work performance. And there’s a good reason to believe this is true. There’s a lot of scientific evidence suggesting that stress can be bad. But some more
recent research is suggesting that we haven’t had a full picture of actually
how stress works and how we can manage it more effectively. Its first important
just to note that stress is a very adaptive thing that our body does. It’s
something that we evolved in order to be ready for action. When you feel your
heart pounding and your palms sweating and your breathing rate going up, that’s
actually your body’s way of helping you to survive in that moment. Preparing you
to fight for your life or run away from something dangerous. And one of the things
that we’ve learned from recent research is that people who believe that stress
isn’t necessarily bad but in fact something that can help them, seem to be
better off. In many ways this belief that stress can actually be helpful seems to
protect you against the potentially negative effects of stress. So for
example in some research that I’ve done we taught students the night before a
first midterm exam that their feelings of anxiety about the test could actually
help them. And we found that giving students that simple message actually
led them to do better on their exam the next day and in the course as a whole.
Our research is also teaching us that not all stress is the same. We encounter
some stressful things in our lives that we can control. So for example if I’m
experiencing stress about a big test I can control that. I can do things to
study and to be more prepared. But we also experience stress that comes from
things that we cannot control. So if I’ve already taken a big test,for
example, and I have to wait a week to get my results, I may be feeling stressed
about how I did but I can’t do anything about that stress, I can’t take action. So is stress bad for you? I think the answer is it
doesn’t have to be. We just need to be smarter about the ways that we think about our stress Understanding when we can use our stress to mobilize ourselves to action And when on the other hand we need to use our stress as a signal that it’s time to reach out and ask for some help
and some support.

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