How Much Stress Is Good?

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stressed brain being squeezed

Have you ever felt prepared for something and STILL managed to fail?

I have.

Not due to lack of preparation but extreme levels of crippling anxiety that affected my performance.

This overwhelming feeling that hinders my agility is not new to me but it’s something I’ve learned to cope with.

Still, I always hear that “some” stress is good for you but —

How much stress is good?

Daniela Kaufer, associate professor of integrative biology at the University of California, Berkeley, is working hard to figure that out. Her and her team have found that some stress can push you to optimum alertness levels, behavioral and cognitive performance.

All things we want, right? Still, how much stress remains an unknown factor.

There’s no quantifiable measurement at this time however, they’ve had positive results with acute level of stress.  Here are some basics on our frenemy: stress.

Types of stress:

Eustress: Fun + exciting, keeps us vital

Acute: short-term stress that can be positive

Episodic: acute stress that runs rampant and creates chaos

Chronic: never ending and inescapable.

Here’s how it works:

Their research showed that brief stressful events caused stem cells in rats to multiply rapidly into new nerve cells that matured two weeks later improving mental performance.

Reasonable levels of acute stress was found to have doubled the generation of new brain cells in the hippocampus area of the brain, our memory bank. 

 

The hippocampus is one of the only two places in the brain that produces new brain cells in the adult brain. The other location being the olfactory bulb, involved with our sense of smell.

Nerve cell generation was found to be triggered by the release of protein FGF2, which helps regulate the neurons in our brain. This specific protein has been linked to depressive-like behaviors in animals and depression in humans.

Intermittent stressful events keeps the brain more alert leading to increased performance. However, constant long-term exposure to intense acute stress is harmful and has been found to lead to PTSD.

While irritating at times, our stress hormones original intent is to help us adapt. Remembering stressful events and sources was detrimental to our ancestral survival and still is to this very day.  

Berkley researchers found that rats exposed to really high levels of stress produced an increase in glucocorticoid, a class of steroid hormones, which suppressed the production of new neurons in the hippocampus.  

reversed effect.

On top of suppressing the creation of new cells: increased stress can lead to increased risk for obesity, heart disease, and depression. Too much stress leads to impatience or edginess, lack of enjoyment, sleep problems, and exhaustion.

These stress hormones, adrenaline and cortisol, are the ones responsible for triggering our ‘Fight or Flight’ response. Activation produces the following effects: speeds heart rate, slows digestion, shunts blood flow to major muscle groups, and changes Autonomic Nerve System functions leading to a burst of energy and strength.  

It helps guides us to physically run or fight when faced with danger.  

Helpful isn’t it?

Well, yes and no.  

No, because most of the stressors we encounter today, like financial woes and relationship issues, require this sort of response. It’s quite inappropriate actually if you start to physically fight with HSBC creditors or literally run away from your partner.  

Yes, because if a bear is chasing you; it’s good to know you need to flee instantly and not try to give it a pot of honey. Just because it looks cuddly, doesn’t mean it is.

Chronic stress and an overactive Autonomic Nervous System can lead to: chronic headaches, increased susceptibility to colds, increases chances of depression, diabetes, hair loss, heart disease, hyperthyroidism, obesity, OCD/Anxiety disorders, sexual dysfunction, tooth/gum disease, ulcers.

You know, uncool stuff.

Moral of the story? Stress is like everything else in life: balance is key.

We can never eliminate stress but we can learn to cope and manage it without letting it run amuck.  

I’m preparing for a test (yes, still), hence the silence and disappearance, and part of that preparation involves learning stress management techniques to make sure I kick that exam’s ass and not the other way around.  

If you guys are interested, I can share some techniques here next week.  Just holler below. 

In the meantime, I’m going to eat my way to success because science has proven that lots of Jalapeño chips and Vanilla ice cream is the secret to success.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

Has anxiety ever been crippling for you? If so, when and how did you cope?

Sources: Header Image, 1, 2

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9 Comments
  • Tamara
    March 5, 2016 at 11:12 AM

    Yes and yes. Anxiety has crippled me. And YES, I want to know about coping skills! That’s what I need to learn. Life itself is situational, and my anxiety is situational. Stuff will always happen – money, work, relationships, Presidential candidates.
    I want to be better at handling it. I’m 35 and no medication, so something is working.

    Reply
  • Jessica @Independent Travel Cats
    March 5, 2016 at 4:55 PM

    Another interesting article Iva! I think that I used to be able to better manage stress and anxiety and it fueled me in graduate school, but in the past year it has definitely got harder to manage and deal with as one develops a lot of unhealthy strategies in school that don’t really work in real life.

    Reply
  • GiGi Eats
    March 7, 2016 at 10:15 PM

    I don’t really suffer from anxiety all that often, cause, um… I work from home in my sweat pants? LOL!! And I don’t have kids. I don’t have to worry about them – ha! I am a handful and a half enough 😉

    I used to stress out like a crazy person though, way back when I gave a fuck. But nope. No longer do I do that. I wish I could go back to my younger self and tell her to STFU and not care so much about the little things in life!

    Reply
  • kathy at more coffee, less talky
    March 8, 2016 at 12:30 PM

    yes. when i was going through my awful PPD, i was stressed 24/7. in fact, i was diagnosed with anxiety disorder, acute OCD and major depressive disorder. basically, i was scared all the time which increased my stress which increased my anxiety and i couldn’t function for 2.5yrs. it was awful. no sleep (maybe 1hr/night if i was lucky) and i NEVER ate. i dropped to about 103lbs in those 2yrs. so i can 100% attest to the fact that chronic stress is no bueno!!!

    Reply
  • Jackie
    March 9, 2016 at 7:58 PM

    Good luck on your test! I tend to let myself get stressed out, so I’m really working on being better about it. I know it’s so bad for me, so I’m working on better ways to cope!

    Reply
  • Danielle @ Typed
    March 10, 2016 at 6:13 PM

    Ugh, yes! I used to suffer from crippling anxiety in college. It was performance anxiety, but it stopped over time. Gained confidence and forcing myself to face my fears really helped. I have a lot less anxiety now, thankfully. Good luck on your exam!! xo

    Reply
  • Danielle @ Typed
    March 10, 2016 at 6:13 PM

    Ugh, yes! I used to suffer from crippling anxiety in college. It was performance anxiety, but it stopped over time. Gained confidence and forcing myself to face my fears really helped. I have a lot less anxiety now, thankfully. Good luck on your exam!! xo

    Reply
  • Danielle @ Typed
    March 10, 2016 at 6:13 PM

    Ugh, yes! I used to suffer from crippling anxiety in college. It was performance anxiety, but it stopped over time. Gained confidence and forcing myself to face my fears really helped. I have a lot less anxiety now, thankfully. Good luck on your exam!! xo

    Reply
  • Danielle @ Typed
    March 10, 2016 at 6:13 PM

    Ugh, yes! I used to suffer from crippling anxiety in college. It was performance anxiety, but it stopped over time. Gained confidence and forcing myself to face my fears really helped. I have a lot less anxiety now, thankfully. Good luck on your exam!! xo

    Reply

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