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How do you tell the difference between good stress and bad?


Feeling stressed can feel perfectly normal, especially during exam time. You might notice that sometimes being stressed-out motivates you to focus on your work, yet at other times, you feel incredibly overwhelmed and can’t concentrate on anything. While stress affects everyone in different ways, there are two major types of stress: stress that’s beneficial and motivating — good stress — and stress that causes anxiety and even health problems — bad stress. Here’s more on the benefits and side effects of stress and how to tell if you’re experiencing too much stress.

Benefit of Stress

According to experts, stress is a burst of energy that basically advises you on what to do. In small doses, stress has many advantages. For instance, stress can help you meet daily challenges and motivates you to reach your goals. In fact, stress can help you accomplish tasks more efficiently. It can even boost memory.

Stress is also a vital warning system, producing the fight-or-flight response. When the brain perceives some kind of stress, it starts flooding the body with chemicals like epinephrine, norepinephrine and cortisol. This creates a variety of reactions such as an increase in blood pressure and heart rate. Plus, the senses suddenly have a laser-like focus so you can avoid physically stressful situations — such as jumping away from a moving car — and be safe.

In addition, there are various health benefits with a little bit of stress. Researchers believe that some stress can help to fortify the immune system. For instance, stress can improve how your heart works and protect your body from infection. In one study, individuals who experienced moderate levels of stress before surgery were able to recover faster than individuals who had low or high levels.

Side Effects of Stress

Stress is key for survival, but too much stress can be detrimental. Emotional stress that stays around for weeks or months can weaken the immune system and cause high blood pressure, fatigue, depression, anxiety and even heart disease. In particular, too much epinephrine can be harmful to your heart. It can change the arteries and how their cells are able to regenerate.

Signals of Too Much Stress

It may be tough to tell when you’re experiencing good or bad stress, but there are important ways that your body lets you know that you’re struggling with too much stress. Watch out for the following warning signs:

• Inability to concentrate or complete tasks
• Get sick more often with colds
• Body aches
• Other illnesses like autoimmune diseases flare up
• Headaches
• Irritability
• Trouble falling sleeping or staying awake
• Changes in appetite
• More angry or anxious than usual

What You Can Do

Stress is an inevitable part of life, but you can improve the way you respond to stress and avoid or change some of the situations that create negative stress. Check out our article in managing stress for more tips.