Is Stress Bad For You?
Why Increasing My Stress Has Been One of the Most Powerful Decisions I’ve Ever Made
Stress is one of the most hot topics when it comes to controlling your health.
“Chill out,” or “ you really need to stop stressing so much, it’s bad for your health.”
While these well intentioned comments are common, they’re not entirely true. Before we dive into this topic further, we first need to divide stress into two categories: long term stress and short term stress.
When people talk about stress being bad for you, they should be referring to long term stress. Examples of these include living with an abusive partner, being a caregiver to an sick parent, or living in a war zone. These types of stress are well documented to be harmful to your health, particularly heart disease.
Unfortunately, most people misunderstood the data to believe that because long term stress is harmful, all stress is harmful. This simply is not true, and does a disservice to its positive impact on your life. Stress is one of the most potent nootropics, improving focus, memory, motivation, alertness, and creativity. It helps you reach deadlines at work, athlete’s perform, and fuels innovation. Do not shy away from stress in your life, especially if the stress coming from passion, or things you get excited about.
So how do you know if your stress is adding to your life, or taking away from it?
The main determinate I would look at is your sleep. If you’re so overwhelmed with your day to day life, that you can’t fall asleep, you’re taking on too much. First, focus on creating sleep rituals, to appropriately wind down from the day. This signals to your parasympathetic nervous system that it’s time to rest, and switch off from your day. If your brain doesn’t get this signal, it will impact your sleep quality. Avoid screen time at least 1 hour before bed, opting to read a book, journal, or do some light stretching instead.
If that’s not enough, there are some supplement options you can discuss with your doctor or health care practitioner, to improve your sleep quality. I personally do not recommend melatonin, as the dosages are often too high, and can have other negative side effects.
Two supplement options I’ve seen a lot of success with are ashwagandha and L- Theanine. These help decrease cortisol production, or your stress response. Again, your stress response is not a negative process, but something we want to manage. Too much long term results in negative consequences, too little leads to low productivity, or life without meaning. Like with everything, we need a balance.
So the next time someone tells you to “chill out,” remind them that your stress response is helping you perform.