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Is There Such a Thing as Good Stress?

College, in general, is stressful; add on facing a global pandemic and converting to online learning, and, naturally, stress takes hold. PVCC Adjunct Professor with counseling department and Life Coach Nassim Sana shares her thoughts on how to manage stress.

I think before we discuss what good stress is, it is important to understand how stress - the vital warning system in our brain – really works.

The fight-or-flight response is when the brain perceives some kind of stress, it starts flooding the body with chemicals like epinephrine, norepinephrine and cortisol. This creates a variety of reactions such as an increase in blood pressure and heart rate. Your senses suddenly have a laser-like focus so you can avoid physically stressful situations. For example, if you’re driving in traffic and someone suddenly cuts you off and you are able to avoid an accident, it is this fight-or flight response that helps you stay safe, and alive. 

Now you may ask yourself, have I ever experienced good stress? The answer is yes, of course you have. For example, when you were planning your wedding, buying a new house, watching a horror movie or bungee jumping. Good stress is also recognized as stress that is short term. Good stress is what motivates us and is beneficial for our progress. It can help us meet our daily challenges and accomplish tasks more effectively and efficiently. A little bit of stress allows us to stay focused at the end of the day and feel accomplished.
Studies have shown that good stress or short term stress:

  • Fortifies the immune system
  • Improves how your heart works
  • Protects your body from infection  

Now that we know good stress also exists in our lives, it’s important for us to take the time and learn how we can manage the level of stress in our lives. The key here is to be honest with yourself and listen to your body. Our bodies are always talking to us and giving us signs. If you begin to experience too much muscle tension, lack of concentration, headaches, irritability, interrupted sleep or trouble falling asleep, changes in appetite, and getting angry and anxious easily, you may want to bring more balance into your life. Pay attention to what your body is telling you.

Once you have recognized these signs in your life, then it’s time to take the next step and create healthy ways to decrease your level of stress.

  • Try not to focus on persistent negative thoughts that prevent you from feeling happy. The more you focus on the negative thoughts the less likely you’re able to focus on productive goals. You want to teach yourself to live more in your possibilities.
  • When you wake up in the morning visualize how productive you want your day to look; then throughout the day check in with yourself and see if you’re still in that space of possibilities and what tasks you have been able to accomplish.
  • Most importantly, self-care. Take time out to exercise, read your favorite book, laugh, take vacation, give yourself and treat and stop to smell the roses. It makes all the difference in the world.

Fall 2020 will look different with masks, smaller classes, social distancing and more, but remember to listen to your body and follow simple ways to decrease stress.

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