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Study: Some Types of Stress Could be Good for Brain Functioning


Low to moderate stress levels may help build resilience while reducing the risk of mental illness, according to a new study from the Youth Development Institute at the University of Georgia.

The study, published in Psychiatry Research, found that low to moderate levels of stress can help individuals develop resilience and reduce their risk of developing mental health disorders, like depression and antisocial behaviors.

Low to moderate stress can also help individuals to cope with future stressful encounters and lead to personal growth.

“If you’re in an environment where you have some level of stress, you may develop coping mechanisms that will allow you to become a more efficient and effective worker and organize yourself in a way that will help you perform,” said Dr. Assaf Oshri, lead author of the study and an associate professor in the College of Family and Consumer Sciences.

However, the researchers warn that chronic stress can have harmful health and psychological consequences, affecting the immune system, emotional regulation, and brain functioning.

Healthy ways to cope with stress

According to the American Psychological Association (APA) website, chronic stress affects all systems of the body. For example, it can increase the risk for hypertension and heart attack. Long-term stress also causes muscle tension, which is associated with headaches. In addition, prolonged stress can negatively affect the male and female reproductive systems, including the ability to conceive.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suggests healthy ways to cope with stress:

  • Take care of your body by eating healthy, being physically active, and getting enough sleep.
  • Choose not to drink alcohol or drink in moderation (2 drinks or less in a day for men; 1 drink or less in a day for women). Avoid smoking and the use of tobacco products, including e-cigarettes.
  • Continue with routine preventive measures, including vaccinations, cancer screenings, and other tests recommended by a healthcare provider.
  • Try to do activities you enjoy.
  • Connect with others — talk with people you trust about your concerns and how you are feeling.
  • Take breaks from watching, reading, or listening to news stories, including those on social media.

Resources:

1. The University of Georgia. Some types of stress could be good for brain functioning.

2. Science Direct. Is perceived stress linked to enhanced cognitive functioning and reduced risk for psychopathology? Testing the hormesis hypothesis.

3. American Psychological Association. Stress effects on the body.

4. CDC. Stress and Coping Resources.

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