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Striking a balance with stress

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When stress is mentioned in a treatment setting, such as to a physician, it is likely that stress is not producing positive results. There is a prevalent theme presented to us daily that stress is negative and produces negative results in the quality of life. While this is mostly true, we should consider both the positive and negative factors that surround stress. We must also consider the purpose behind stress, and remember that anything in excess can be damaging; even those things that are meant to be of benefit to us.

With the thought of balance in mind, studies conclude that there are positive outcomes directly related to certain types of stress. To understand the positive factors, it may be good to look at the minute details around what stress is and the types of stress people can experience.

Stress, in the most basic sense, relates to strain or tension. Stress can be as simple as waiting in line at the grocery store or as traumatic as dealing with the loss of a job. When a person experiences stress the effect is on emotion and physical response. The true purpose of stress is to experience it and react to it; it’s a natural response system. When stress is not managed properly, studies conclude that there are long-term effects on the body.

Stress is classified into three primary areas including acute, chronic and episodic. Due to their prolonged life-span, both chronic stress and episodic stress can cause and contribute to health issues. According to webMD.com, “stress becomes negative when a person faces continuous challenges without relief or relaxation between challenges”.

Acute stress, the most common form, does not have enough time to develop and cause long-term damage (APA.com). Due to the nature of acute stress, there are positive factors that can be used to our advantage. Studies show that acute stress can improve alertness and behavioral and cognitive performance. Another positive factor is the development of new neurons, which is a comparable effect of exercise and sexual activity (Forbes.com).

The key to managing stress is having the necessary skills to handle acute stress. Handling stress in the acute stage is a preventative measure to combat the development of chronic stress. Stress management tools such as meditation, exercise or talking through your feelings with a friend or counselor can help to maintain the intended purpose of stress.

For more details on professional support and information for handling stress please visit www.apa.org.

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