So you’re stressed? Be grateful. Stress makes life a lot sweeter when you learn to manage it right. Better sex, sharper mind, longer life – it does all this. Which is why so many of us are addicted to it.
Nearly half of people claim to be more stressed today than they were five years ago; over three-quarters of people consider stress as intrinsic to their jobs. But let’s look at the positives. Some stress is good. Some stress is necessary. While chronic stress over a period of months is detrimental, feeling a bit ‘stressy’ once or twice a week could be just the ticket. Here’s what that level of stress can do for you.
Keeping you young
When you’re stressed your adrenal glands produce a hormone called dehydroepiandrosterone – known as DHEA to its friends – which has been shown to keep mice alive longer. It was also noted that the same mice had more luxuriant coats. The hormone is thought to build collagen and elastin (the building bricks of the skin) and this stimulates a younger looking appearance. (The beauty industry has latched onto this and is trying to develop products that contain DHEA. You’re ahead of your game, you produce your own.)
Making you smart
DHEA makes your mind sharper. Chronic stress makes you forgetful but short-term stress can make your brain work better for short periods.
Lifting your mood
If you’re feeling down in the dumps, a bit of stress isn’t necessarily terrible. It could be just what you need to perk you up again, forcing you to make decisions and take responsibility. Experts believe this protects us from falling into a state of depression. A recent study found that short doses of the stress hormone cortisol protect some people against depression in the way that anti-depressants regulate mood. Too much cortisol leads to extreme exhaustion, but just a little bit is fine.
Improving your sex life
Let’s hear it for our old friend, DHEA. Women with a low libido who were given doses of DHEA got more interested again. It turns out that low levels of stress are linked to control of sex drive. Moderate stress releases DHEA and this affects libido positively.
Keeping you alive
A study carried out at the University of Texas showed that people with few pressures are up to 50% more likely to die within ten years of quitting work than those who faced major responsibility. People under regular pressure tend to take better control of their lives and as a result suffer fewer conditions linked to failing finances, poor relationships and employment problems.
Stress works in another way to keep us healthy and alive. Humans are designed to have short, sharp periods of stress every now and then. It gives us the ‘high’ that is necessary for psychological good health. If your life is free of stress you may look to get the highs elsewhere and as result indulge in what psychologists call ‘high-risk behaviour.’ Translation: extreme sports, dangerous sexual behaviour, fighting, drugs. One way of seeing each of these activities is a way of artificially introducing stress into an understimulated life. Stress keeps us from falling into bad or frankly, mad, habits.
You can’t stress-proof your life
Life is innately stressful – we can’t completely banish stress from our lives. Even if you lock yourself in your bedroom for the foreseeable future, stress will find you out. It is caused by change, and life changes even if you withdraw from it and hide under the bed. The ripples of change will still lap against your bedroom door.
But by learning to manage stress, and use it to your advantage, you can find it motivates, energises and spurs you on to a richer and more fulfilling life. So whenever the pace of life is getting you down remember there’s only one thing worse for you than too much stress, and that’s too little.