Help your body against the ‘bad stress’

Stress is a reaction of our body to external or internal sources which create changes, threats, or pressure upon our body. When this happens, our body reacts in a certain way to try to regain its normal state and protect itself from potential harm. This has been the same in humans for thousands of years. In the simpler times, 5000 years ago, individuals had the response to stay alive to threats like animals or food deprivation. Nowadays, our body still reacts the same, but the stress sources (stressors) are not wild animals anymore but things such as not meeting a deadline or the fear of losing a job (1). In this article we will discuss what different types of stresses there are and how you can cope with certain types of stress.

The bad stress

Everyone, especially students, has experienced stress at some point in their lives. Sometimes people do not find stress harming, but rather a helpful rush of energy that drives them to do their tasks when it is needed the most. They might find it ‘good stress’. However, there is a rise in the number of adolescents that cope with the other side of stress, ‘bad stress’. This kind of stress wears you out and has a negative impact on your health (2,3). Bad stress can be short-term (acute) or long-term (chronic). Acute stress is undesirable, but your body can recover from it quickly once you take measures. However, chronic stress, where you repeatedly deal with stressors (e.g., money problems), can have a negative effect on your well-being and is a risk factor for multiple diseases (2,3,4,5).

Helping your body

As mentioned before, stress is not always ‘bad’ you also have the ‘good’ kind. The bad is becoming a problem when it starts to be something long-lasting and is taking over your life. When this occurs, we need to figure out how to help our body reduce this stress. To cope with stress, it is key to have the capacity to manage the stressors associated with it. This is important to maintain both mental and physical health (6). There are several ways to cope with your stressors, for example:

  • Physical activity
  • Mindfulness
  • Good sleep
  • A social network / social support
  • Relaxation

Research has shown that physical activity among students can improve mental health and reduce stress from college (6). In addition, working on your mindfulness can be helpful. Studies have demonstrated that mindfulness apps showed effectiveness in minimizing stress (4).  Moreover, getting a good night of sleep, having a social network you can rely on, and relaxing occasionally can give you reduced levels of stress (3,5).

Stress is inevitable and is always going to be part of our lives. However, when coping with ‘bad stress’, especially long-term, we have to be aware of the consequences and try to reduce stress.

Literature

  1. Selye, H. What is stress?. Metabolism, 5(5), 525-530
  2. Schraml, K., Perski, A., Grossi, G., & Makower, I. (2012). Chronic stress and its consequences on subsequent academic achievement among adolescents. Journal of Educational and Developmental Psychology, 2(1), 69.
  3. Stress Management: How to Tell the Difference Between Good and Bad Stress. (2021, 18 januari). Summa Health. Geraadpleegd op 20 december 2021, van https://www.summahealth.org/flourish/entries/2021/01/stress-management-how-to-tell-the-difference-between-good-and-bad-stress
  4. Lyzwinski, L. N., Caffery, L., Bambling, M., & Edirippulige, S. (2019). The mindfulness app trial for weight, weight-related behaviors, and stress in university students: randomized controlled trial. JMIR mHealth and uHealth, 7(4), e12210
  5. NIH News in Health. 2014. Feeling Stressed? Stress Relief Might Help Your Health. NIH Office of Communications and public Liaison. Geraadpleegd op 20 december 2021.
  6. VanKim, N. A., & Nelson, T. F. (2013). Vigorous physical activity, mental health, perceived stress, and socializing among college students. American Journal of Health Promotion, 28(1), 7-15.