Believe It or Not, Stress Can Be Good For You


Most people believe that there is one way
that the body responds to stress, you know. Everyone’s heard the fight or flight response.
But it actually turns out that that’s just one way that the body and brain can respond
to a stressful circumstance. And it’s often not a very helpful way to respond to a stressful
circumstance, especially one in which you really want to rise to the challenge and perform
your best where it’s really not about survival mode. And it turns out that the brain and
the body actually has another way of responding to these kind of high stakes challenges, you
know, whether it’s an important negotiation or you have to give a speech or an athletic
competition. Those moments where you really want to show up and do your best. And that
other way of responding to stress is called a challenge response. That it’s a way for
your brain and body to give you maximum focus, attention and energy. And it’s physically
different than sort of the fight or flight response that we have when we feel deeply
threatened by a stressful situation. When you have a threat response, you know, your
body and brain are shifting into the state that is really sort of the classic association
with the harmful stress response. It’s going to make you more likely to choke
under pressure. It’s going to feel more like dread or overwhelm. When you have a challenge
response the brain and body actually sift into a state that gives you more access to
your resources. You know your heart might still be pounding but your blood vessels are
going to relax and open up so you get more blood flow to your muscles and to your brain.
Your brain shifts into a state – it’s actually better at paying attention to everything
in your environment rather than sort of being laser focused like you might be in a fight
or flight response on what’s going wrong or what’s dangerous. When you have a challenge
response all of your senses open to all the information that’s available to you which
means that you’re basically smarter under stress. And researchers have gotten really
interested in figuring out how do you get people to shift from a threat response into
a challenge response. Because unless you’re life is on the line in some sort of crazy
emergency situation it’s going to be better for you to have a challenge response than
a threat response. You’ll perform better and that’s been shown in situations ranging
from people performing surgery to athletes on the field to students taking difficult
exams. That when you have a challenge response you just do better. And it seems like one
of the best ways to shift from a threat response to a challenge response is actually to view
your own stress response as a resource. You know the reason that many people have
a threat response in a stressful situation is that the very first signs if anxiety when
they notice some sweat on their brow or they’re starting to feel their heart pound they think
uh oh, I’m about to blow it and they turn their attention to trying to calm down or
trying to suppress whatever stress is arising. And research originally coming out of Harvard
University has shown that when people say okay, I’m stressed out. I feel stress happening
right now. And that’s a resource. That stress can actually help me do better. It actually
changes the physiology of the stress response from threat to challenge and it helps people
perform better whether they’re giving a talk in public, whether they are engaging
in a business negotiation, whether they’re a student taking an exam – across many scenarios.
Literally just embracing your own stress energy, arousal or anxiety can transform what’s
happening in your brain and body to really help you rise to the challenge.

42 thoughts on “Believe It or Not, Stress Can Be Good For You

  1. Believe It or Not, Stress Can Be Good For You… Wow Big Think you really think so?
    What other brilliant insights have you brought us -_-

  2. Sponsored by your employer. In july Big Think will explain how being underpayed and overworked is healthy.

  3. Ok. How do we get in such a state.
    everybody knows the disadvantages of fear snd anxiety. The bad stress response is the mind going for the exit and the body preparing itself for wounds when there is no phosical threat at all and the mind is more benefited by staying collected instead of fight or flight.

  4. I am always skeptical of claims about the benefits of stress.  As Americans, we throw ourselves towards stress at every opportunity – building the importance of every challenge to some epic scale in our minds…  And collectively we are anxious, depressed, angry, and tired.  Some stress is unavoidable and learning to deal with it successfully is great but, in general, I think we Americans really need to chill out.  That next presentation/meeting/game is not the be-all end-all of existence.  Also, stressed-out people really suck to be around.

  5. I can totally agree. I have this state sometimes in exams or high stake games when im in high compentition. What helps to get into this state is to close your eyes, breath very slow and count to 10 slowly. After that , before you open the eyes, you say to yourself "insert any sentence that makes you focus, such as "I will do this" or "I will make it" etc", you open eyes and fully focus. Ofc you have to realise you are in stress in the first place, only that way you can apply this technique. Learned this from a sports psychologist, and it worked wonders so far for me.

  6. Another thing stress if good for is to encourage you to work. Those who do drugs and other things to alleviate stress run the risk of no longer having a physical reason to do things. Its the main point against weed legalization. That and the heath concerns but now one believes in them. Stress is definitely functional, but it can be bad too. However is also very useful and shouldn't be numbed.

  7. PEOPLE! Reality can be counter intuitive, immediately refuting this just because you know how stress feels is kinda naive, and I know chemicals released during stress have been correlated with negative effects but like I said, it can be counter intuitive. Patronizing this theory is not so different from the guys that laughed at the idea of a spherical Earth just because the land looks flat and be like "Round Earth? What nonsense huehuehuehuehue".

    The placebo effect has a role in this if it is true that your stress response is based on your perception of stress and anxiety.

  8. speaking as a psychology student, who just wrote a thesis about learning under stress i can say that what she refers to as a "challenging stress response" is basically just  a stress response that is attenuated. There is an optimal activation level for learning / brain functioning, lower  or higher than that sweet spot and we are less functional. Google Scholar: Inverted U-Shape stress

  9. Seems wrong to call this stress. Challenge response, ok, but the stress that's killing so many of us a is a long-term thing imbedded deep in the unconscious. It sits there, continuously seeking out an explanation for its own existence in everyday stimuli and in that way keeps us constantly on edge, undermining health and happiness.

  10. I have been training my mind to perceive stress as challenges and it actually have been a very interesting experience  .. it is not something easy to do but it works very well when you get used to it .

  11. I've always considered this "challenge" response as a fight or flight response as well, in the sense you decide to "fight" the stressful situation under the influence of the adrenaline and all that other good stuff your body releases. I see it in the same way my body sees speaking in public as a paralyzing, destructive, near death experience: speaking in public is not life threatening, but my body reacts as it were; my fight is not literally a fight, but me challenging the situation, you know, "fighting it"

  12. This reminded me that scene from rickie bobby where the red head chick talks about harnessing the fear

  13. i would say the the "challenge" state sounds like the Fight response – to fight you want to be running full capacity to perform the best and "beat the opponant-(bear/exam/other human etc…) the dread and anxiety is more of the flight response ,it duznt make sense to have a reflex that makes you anxious when you need to fight for you're life but it would make sense as a sign to get out of that situation

  14. Damn, I suffered from massive anxiety from the age of 12 and by the age of 18 I had heart palipitation and I was close to heart attack…Following your theory I should be a super hero by now…

  15. Still depends on the stress level, but it can work. I got right from stress to flow today and I don't really know why it worked today when it didn't all the other times.

  16. The challenge response isn't 100% good for you… If your body is not in the physical shape to devote energy into something, then I think it's better for you to avoid tasks than to have your brain get overworked… Of course I'm not addressing to situations where you get stressed out in a bad way but do the task anyway. I have no scientific facts to support what i'm saying, I am just using my common sense.

  17. Need to be more clear on what type of stress is good for you. Because the stress I have will want to make you pull your fucking teeth out!

  18. i prefer to be relax,cant understand your point of view because in case of stress i get  no focus(no focus = fail and negative results).So good luck with your stress,i would like to give it all to you,because in case of necesity i have adrenaline and doesen't come from stress

  19. Talk about daily stresses at work, at school, at home and to deal with general BS you face in life you just change all that into a "challenge" mode? That's too much to convert imo.

  20. People need to actually watch the video before commenting god dam….Long term stress does not equal a situational flight or fight response.

  21. Interesting. I have a challenge response whenever I feel I have at least a slight chance of succeeding. Depression took that away from me for a long time, I used to have a threat response to everything, but I'm slowly getting back the challenge spirit.

  22. Sounds super vague and probably a placebo effect.

    I don't really appreciate these kinds of videos. They introduce ideas into my head that I can't prove or disprove. Then they confuse all of my other thoughts.
    Really just seem like one person's opinion on anecdotal evidence/proper research.

    Mindfulness already covers this all and doesn't include terms like "challenge stress" and "threat stress". Too buzz-wordy.

    If it works for some people to think in this way, then great. But it just throws me off.

  23. Well – some people are high on pick, when they are "stressed", however, other stress like  a loved one's death or you are always mobbed they are destructive. Stress is just a modern word being overly demanded.

  24. Isn't this about being "strained"/"anxious", rather than long term accumulated stress? It looks quite a different state to me..

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