Can stress be a good thing?

Leonard Bernstein once said: 

“To achieve great things, two things are needed: a plan, and not quite enough time”.

Stress gets a bad rap these days: it always seems to be seen in terms of its negative health benefits, which are well documented. However, stress serves a purpose: historically, it got us out of life-threatening situations, and the stress response remains a vital part of the human make-up. The main stress hormone, adrenaline, is essential for life. It plays an important part in the regulation of our vital organs and enables us to react quickly in times of danger: have you noticed how your reaction time is much quicker if you step onto the street and a cyclist hurtles past, compared to on the tennis court?

If we didn’t get stressed, we’d most likely never be on time and would get very little done - it’s a great motivator!

The problem arises when chronic stress sets in: we tend to fill our weeks up with hundreds of tasks and bite off more than we can chew, resulting in a state of hypervigilance. In this state, we buzz around and rarely allow ourselves time to slow down or pause, which is when adrenaline levels would normally drop and allow our parasympathetic nervous system to kick in and take care of the everyday “house-keeping” such as digestion and tissue repair.

Have you noticed your back aches more at the end of a busy/stressful day, or you get a stomach ache if you don’t pause and sit down to eat lunch?

Stress is part of the “yang” of life - we just need to learn to balance it out a bit better with a good dose of yin.