Stress is Good?

BKBG Business Blog,

How many people do you know who are stressed out?  Worry constantly about deadlines, debt, increased job and business responsibilities?  We most likely know people who are so stressed that it adversely affects their health or perhaps may even shorten their lives.  There’s new research out of Yale that takes a contrary view that some stress may actually be a positive.   

Stress is a physiological occurrence that activates the nervous system and releases adrenaline and cortisol.  This physical reaction to difficulty, adversity or the unknown – the causes of stress – has some positive benefits.  It causes us to be more focused and alert, ready to respond physically and mentally to whatever the world throws in our court.  How bad is that?   

That does not mean stress can’t be destructive.  There’s lots of evidence that it can break down the immune system and cause illnesses.  It also can enhance immunity, writes Heidi Grant Halvoson in a Harvard Business Review Daily Alert.  Research shows that stress contributes to increasing mental toughness, clarity and confidence to overcome obstacles.    

The bottom line is that stress is both good and bad.  The research at Yale found, according to Halvoson, that the positive or negative effects of stress are determined by how you let stress affect you. If you look at it as a catalyst for focus, creativity and determination, then stress is good.  If you look at the causes of stress as negative, debilitating and physically draining stress is bad.  The point is that stress is what you make of it.  And there is evidence to prove it. 

Yale researchers tested a group of nearly 400 employees of an international business. They discovered those staffers with a stress-enhancing mindset as opposed to a stress-debilitating mindset reported having better health, a more satisfying life and superior work performance, writes Halvoson. 

What’s the lesson.  “Taken together, all this research paints a very clear picture:  stress is killing you because you believe that it is.  Of course, that does not mean you aren’t juggling too many projects at once – each of us has limited time and energy, and people can and do get overworked.”   

Roger von Oech illustrates brilliantly in his book A Whack on the Side of the Head that creativity comes from looking at the same things differently.  If beauty is in the eye of the beholder, so is stress.