The Difference between Positive and Negative Stress

Not all stress is the same — read on to find out how a little pressure can be a good thing.

By: Anthonia Akitunde

Take this description from the National Institute of Mental Health on the body’s response to sudden stress: “Your pulse quickens, you breathe faster, your muscles tense, your brain uses more oxygen and increases activity.”

Now think of the last time you were in a romantic situation or were finishing your first 5K. Sound familiar? Danger or opportunity: It’s all a matter of perspective.

Read on to learn the many ways positive stress can provide you with the necessary nudge to overcome your worries and live your fullest life.

1. Stress Can Help You Meet New People
For most of us, new social situations instil more stress than excitement, and when the fight-or-flight response invariably kicks in, we comfortably opt for the latter course of action.

But in no other circumstance is risk-taking rewarded with such long-term return on investment. As anyone with a “best friend” or partner will tell you, no friendship or romantic relationship can be strongly forged without some initial vulnerability.

Though the uncertainty of interaction and the potential for rejection may cause you to hesitate, the next time you find yourself in a roomful of strangers, let your stress push you into the social foray — not out the door. And even if the interactions don’t result in a new friend for life, you’ll at the very least have given yourself some experience in taking on uncomfortable situations. Stay confident with Secret Clinical St r ength and get four times the protection against stress sweat.*

2. Stress is Part of the Habit-learning Process
As most research shows, it takes 21 days to develop a habit. Until those three weeks have passed, the behaviour you’re trying to cement is unnatural to your routine and requires more mental focus than usual. In fact, for that initial phase, the task you’re trying to internalize may come across simply as stress.

The next time you’re trying to start a new habit like going to bed earlier or eating healthier meals, anticipate the initial (and often uncomfortable) knee-jerk reaction and welcome it. Once the novelty and stress wear off, you may have even paved the way for a lower-stress future.

3. Get Fit
Sweating is no passive feat. Whether it’s cardiovascular exercise or lifting weights, the process of breaking a sweat requires actively stressing your physical capacity and pushing beyond your psychological limits. The trade-off is nowhere more advantageous than in this exchange.

Stress your body for half an hour a day every day, and you’ll start noticing changes in body and mood — most notably, you’ll feel calmer. What’s better, the stress involved in working out is coupled with the production of endorphins, things released in your body that create happy feelings. Pretty soon, you’ll be craving your daily fix of fitness stress, as it actually calms you and lessens your anxiety.

Stress isn’t all bad — more often than not, it’s merely a matter of perspective.

Anthonia is the co-founder and editorial director of Mater Mea, an online magazine that profiles the stories of working mothers of colour through gorgeous photography and compelling features.

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