Stress: Is It ALWAYS Bad for Your Health?
For years, many of us have heard the idea that stress is bad for us. You may have even heard that stress can kill you.
This idea definitely has some basis in reality, as stress can contribute to things like high blood pressure and heart disease, which can cause sickness and even death.
However, in the past decade, new research has come out supporting the notion that stress doesn’t always have to be bad for you and that in many cases, believing it is “dangerous” is part of the problem.
One of the key components of this new research is that there are actually 3 different stress responses, not just the “fight-or-flight response” we all think of.
With this new paradigm there is also the “challenge response,” which helps to prepare our bodies for situations where we need to perform under pressure, and the “tend-and-befriend response,” which drives us to connect with others and use the power of community when under threat.
These 2 other types of responses activate different hormones and neurotransmitters in our bodies than the “fight-or-flight response” does.
The “tend-and-befriend response” helps to produce oxytocin to help us connect, empathize, and trust, to produce more dopamine for motivation, optimism, and decreasing fear, and more serotonin for enhanced perception, intuition, and awareness.
The “challenge response” allows the body physiologically to respond like we are exercising, rather than running for our lives. This puts less stress on the heart as our blood vessels stay relaxed, our heart beat is actually stronger, and each beat pumps more blood. In addition, different hormones like DHEA help the brain learn stress resilience rather than becoming more sensitized to future threats.
In future posts, I will be sharing more about these 2 other types of stress responses and ways that you can start to shift out of “fight-or-flight” and instead use “challenge response” or the “tend-and-befriend” response.