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Can stress be good for brain functioning? What new study says

A new study found that low to moderate levels of stress can help individuals develop resilience and reduce the risk of developing mental health disorders, like depression and antisocial behaviorsPremium
A new study found that low to moderate levels of stress can help individuals develop resilience and reduce the risk of developing mental health disorders, like depression and antisocial behaviors

  • A new study suggests that low to moderate levels of stress can help in developing resilience and reduce the risk of developing mental health disorders, like depression and antisocial behaviors

Stress is widely considered to be part and parcel of the modern day lifestyle, often but rightly condemned for being responsible for its severe impact on ease of living. Interestingly, a new study questions this long held notion. A recent research from the Youth Development Institute at the University of Georgia suggests that the impending work deadline that is stressing you out, contrary to popular belief, may actually be beneficial to your brain.

The latest research findings published in psychiatry research, found that low to moderate levels of stress can help in developing resilience and reduce the risk of developing mental health disorders, like depression and antisocial behaviors. Additionally, it suggests that low to moderate stress can also help individuals to cope with future stressful encounters, news agency ANI report noted.

Assaf Oshri, lead author of the study and an associate professor in the College of Family and Consumer Sciences explained, “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." The report further highlighted that the stress that comes from important life situations, like for instance, studying for an exam, preparing for a big meeting at work or pulling longer hours to close the deal can all potentially lead to personal growth. So can dealing with rejection, like for instance being fired from a job may prompt someone to reconsider their strengths and whether they should stay in their field or branch out to something new, the report said.

What you need to know about good stress:

However, the interesting thing to note here is the line between the right amount of stress and too much stress is a thin one, Oshri explains, "it's like when you keep doing something hard and get a little callous on your skin, you trigger your skin to adapt to this pressure you are applying to it. But if you do too much, you're going to cut your skin." The study noted that good stress can act like a vaccine against the effect of future adversity

The researchers relied on data from the Human Connectome Project, a national project funded by the National Institutes of Health that aims to provide insight into how the human brain functions. For the present study, the researchers analyzed the project's data from more than 1,200 young adults who reported their perceived stress levels using a questionnaire commonly used in research to measure how uncontrollable and stressful people find their lives, as per report.  

But, when stress is too much:

On the flip side though, it is equally important to remain cautious about too much stress, as the ability to tolerate stress and adversity varies greatly according to the individual, the study revealed. There are other factors that impact how an individual responds to stress, things like age, genetic predispositions and having a supportive community to fall back on in times of crisis appear to relevant in the matter. On a more somber note, Oshri has warned that continued levels of high stress can be incredibly damaging, both physically and mentally, explaining that, "at a certain point, stress becomes toxic," he said. "Chronic stress, like the stress that comes from living in abject poverty or being abused, can have very bad health and psychological consequences. It affects everything from your immune system, to emotional regulation, to brain functioning. Not all stress is good stress." 

(With inputs from ANI)

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