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    Stress: Good For You?

      |  Dec 11, 2023

    “Stress” is not a dirty word — or at least it shouldn’t be. Under the right circumstances, your body’s natural response to challenging situations can be a positive force in your life. Learning how to tell the difference between negative and positive stress, as well as how to handle the negative side effects, can better prepare you for life’s stressful moments, good or bad.

    What is “good” stress?

    Most of life’s greatest moments come with a catch. Whether it’s the financial stress of planning a wedding, or the emotional stress of starting a new job, even the most exciting opportunities in life are bound to activate your body’s stress response. And while it might not feel like it in the middle of making seating arrangements or signing endless paperwork, acute stress can actually provide benefits for the brain and body.

    When faced with stressful situations, our body gives us the tools to tackle the task at hand. Acute stress activates brain chemicals called neurotrophins, and creates stronger connections between neurons in the brain. Ever notice that you’re able to concentrate better at work after a morning yoga class, or feel inspired after a long run? That’s because low level stress like exercise, in which the body undergoes physical stress, can improve productivity and focus. The stress response also releases adrenaline into the body, which provides you with added energy and motivation.

    Mental stress (in the right amounts) can also increase brain power as it relates to memory. In a 2013 study at UC Berkeley, researchers put rats under acute stress and tested their memory in the days and weeks after. During the stressful event, researchers witnessed a doubling of the proliferation of brain cells in the rats’ hippocampus, and better performance on memory tests two weeks following the stressful event. While chronic stress has been proven to reduce short and long term memory, it’s possible that acute stress challenges the brain in a way that eventually strengthens it.

    What is “bad” stress?

    On the other end of the stress spectrum are challenges that create uncertainty, threaten our physical or emotional safety, or veer our lives off the course we thought we were on. These events, like losing a job, coping with a serious illness, or going through a difficult breakup, also activate the stress response. In these cases, the stress has the potential to become chronic.

    The impacts of chronic stress on our physical and mental health have been widely studied. Continued exposure to adrenaline and cortisol throw our body’s natural processes off course, as it deprioritizes essential functions to protect us from perceived danger. When dealing with “bad” stress you might become hyper focused on what’s going wrong with your life. Instead of feeling motivated to deal with challenges, you could feel despair at everything that’s out of your control. 

    All of us will deal with “bad” stress at some point in our lives, so it’s important that we have the tools to mitigate its effects. Maintaining regular routines in beneficial practices like exercise and meditation, along with a balanced diet, have all been proven to reduce the physical and mental impacts of stress. 

    Treatments and supplements can also provide added support during particularly stressful times. Modern Age’s IV Drip Therapy for Stress combines vitamin C and glutathione to reduce inflammation and symptoms of stress, including anxiety, tension, and fatigue. A supplement like Phytisone, which contains ashwagandha, could also be beneficial. In studies of ashwagandha’s effectiveness, researchers saw a 11 - 30% reduction in cortisol levels among participants who took the supplement over the course of 1 - 3 months.

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

    Positive stress typically lasts for a short duration with a designated endpoint. It can serve as a source of inspiration or motivation and help you channel the energy you need to boost performance. Good stress has the power to push us further to reach our goals, and leverage the body’s natural response to move us forward in life. 

    In contrast, negative stress drains your vitality, makes you feel anxious, and is often reflected in your health. Otherwise known as distress, it can lead to anxiety, mental fog, diminished performance, and a slew of physical symptoms like indigestion or irregular menstrual cycles. Without careful management, bad stress can become chronic, and lead to long term health conditions as you age.

    If you feel like you’re less able to cope with stress as you age, or are battling symptoms of chronic stress, our Aging Wellness Assessment can help. Using a series of tests that measure 55 key biomarkers, cognitive function, and metabolic health, the Aging Wellness Assessment offers a holistic picture of your body’s unique health needs, and uncovers the root causes behind common age (and stress) related symptoms. You’ll work 1:1 with a licensed clinician to understand your results, and create a custom plan that puts you back on track to feeling your best. Learn more and get started today on our website.