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The difference between good and bad stress

Stress is a fact of modern life. No matter how much we try to avoid it, minimize it or wish it away, we will all experience stress on some occasions in our lives. Not that that’s not necessarily negative. Because, like beauty, stress tends to be very much in the eye – or the mind – of the beholder, knowing the differences between good and bad stress, and how to cope with each, can make a big change for the better in our sense of well-being.

Fight or Flight

It may seem contradictory to talk about “healthy stress” but that’s what stress is, on a very basic level. When human beings perceive danger nearby, it’s only natural – and self-protective – to react. That’s why humans are born with the “fight or flight” instinct, a physical reaction of the adrenal gland to emergencies.

Whether you are faced with a wild dog in the jungle or a car headed straight at you on the highway, stress sends you the signal to: “React! And fast!” As a result you either grapple head on with the danger or get out of the way as quickly as you can.

Healthy Stress

This healthy stress reaction tends to carry over into other areas of our lives. Playing in a football game or being interviewed for a job is not generally life threatening, but it does still require alertness and a snappy response time. Good stress activates an adrenaline rush and keeps you on your toes.

Physical effects may be quite noticeable and include an accelerated heart rate, blood rushing to the face and a feeling of butterflies in the stomach. When you leave the situation, though, the stress reaction will quiet down after a while.

Bad Stress

Stress is tolerable if it comes and goes, at levels that are not overwhelming. However, some individuals, due to life circumstances or personality type, experience stress that is ongoing and/or extremely high level for long periods of time. Their bodies are frequently flooded with a surge of stress hormones that interfere with processes the body considers nonessential, such as proper digestion or sleep.

Bad stress is chronic and can cause a host of physical and emotional problems, including heart disease, ulcers and depression.

Coping with Stress

One solution to an overload of bad stress is to try to remove or work through situations that are causing it. Faced with an intolerably abusive boss, for instance, you might want to think about requesting a transfer to another department. If the source of stress is problems managing money, a financial advisor or accountant may be of assistance.

State of Mind

Another solution is to change your state of mind, and your perception of the situation as stressful. Participating in enjoyable low stress activities such as gardening tend to promote a calmer state of mind. Relaxation techniques such as meditation can also help increase serenity.

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Grace Chen
Grace Chen - Writer & Editor
A graduate of the Haas School of Business, University of California, which is one of the top three (3) business schools in the U.S., Grace Chen has 10 years of experience in this field and have been delivering stellar business content through her written word. She’s the chief editor of Communicate Better and has written and edited thousands of content published in various online and printed media, including the NYSE-sponsored research studies and MEC Global. Connect with Grace on LinkedIn, https://www.linkedin.com/in/grace-chen-9254ab8/

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