It may look like an anvil hanging over your head, but that looming deadline stressing you out at work may actually be good for your brain, according to a new research from the Youth Development Institute at the University of Georgia.
Published in Psychiatry Exploration, the study found that low to moderate levels of stress can help individuals build resilience and reduce the risk of developing mental health disorders, such as depression and antisocial behavior. Low to moderate tension can also help individuals cope with future stressful encounters.
“If you are in an environment where you have a certain level of worry, you can develop coping mechanisms that will allow you to become a more effective and efficient worker and to organize yourself in a way that will help you perform,” said Assaf Oshri, lead author of the study and associate professor at the College of Family and Consumer Sciences.
The stress of studying for an exam, preparing for a big meeting at work, or going to school. working longer hours to close the deal can potentially lead to personal growth. Being rejected by an editor, for example, can cause a writer to rethink their design and style. And being fired might cause someone to reconsider their strengths and decide whether to stay in their field or embark on something new.
But the line between good amount of stress and too much stress is slim.
“It’s like when you keep doing something hard and you get a little numb,” Oshri continued , who also runs the UGA Youth Growth Institute. “You’re pushing your skin to adapt to that pressure you put on it. But if you overdo it, you’ll cut your skin.”
Good pressure can act as a vaccine against the effects of future adversity
Researchers relied on data from the Human Connectome Project, a nationwide project funded by the Nationwide Institutes of Overall health which aims to provide insight into how the human brain works. For the current study, researchers analyzed project data from more than 1 200 young adults who reported their perceived level of stress using a commonly used questionnaire in research to measure how uncontrollable and stressful people find their lives.
Members responded to questions about how often they experienced certain thoughts or feelings , like “in the past month, how often have you been upset about something that happened unexpectedly?” and “In the last month, how many times have you found that you couldn’t cope with all the things you had to do?”
Their neurocognitive abilities have were then assessed using tests that measured attention and the ability to suppress automatic responses to visual stimuli cognitive flexibility or the ability to switch between tasks image sequence memory, which consists of remember a series of objects with longer working memory and processing speed.
Researchers compared these results with participants’ responses to multiple measures feelings of anxiety, attention problems and aggression, among other behavioral and emotional issues.
Analysis found low to moderate levels of tension were psychologically beneficial , potentially acting as a sort of inoculation against the development of symp mental health tomes.
“Most of us have negative experiences that make us stronger,” Oshri said. “There are specific experiences that can help you grow or develop skills that will prepare you for the future.”
But the ability to tolerate pressure and adversity varies greatly between individuals.
Factors such as age, genetic predispositions and having a supportive community to lean on in times of need play into all have a role in how individuals deal with challenges. While a little anxiety can be good for cognition, Oshri warns that high levels of worry can be incredibly damaging, both physically and mentally.
“At a At some point, the anxiety becomes toxic,” he said. “Chronic strain, like the worry that comes from living in abject poverty or being abused, can have very bad health and psychological consequences. It affects everything from your immune system to emotional regulation to brain function. Not all anxiety is good worry. ”
The study was co-authored by Zehua Cui and Cory Carvalho, from the Department of Human Development and Family Sciences at the University of Georgia, and Sihong Liu , from Stanford University.