Stress & Anxiety Are ‘Helpful’, Says Study
New research from the American Psychological Association states that issues such as stress and anxiety can be beneficial if you view it in the correct context.
Leader of the research Lisa Damour, PhD, said: “Stress is a given in daily life, yet working at the edge of our abilities often builds capacities and moderate levels of stress can have an inoculating function [against further anxiety].
“This leads to higher than average resilience when we are faced with new difficulties.”
Anxiety also gets an unnecessarily bad rap, according to Damour.
“As all psychologists know, anxiety is an internal alarm system, likely handed down by evolution, that alerts us to threats both external and internal,” she said.
Viewing anxiety as “helpful and protective” allows people to make good use of it.
That doesn’t mean that stress and anxiety can’t be harmful, said Damour.
She added that stress can become unhealthy if it is chronic (allowing for no possibility of recovery) or if it is traumatic (psychologically catastrophic).
“In other words, stress causes harm when it exceeds any level that a person can reasonably absorb or use to build psychological strength,” Damour said.
“Likewise, anxiety becomes unhealthy when its alarm makes no sense [like when] people feel routinely anxious for no reason at all.”
Untreated stress and anxiety can cause persistent misery but can also contribute to a host of additional psychological and medical symptoms, such as depression or an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, according to Damour.
“Anyone feeling overwhelmed by stress should, if possible, take measures to reduce his or her stress and/or seek help from a trained professional to learn stress management strategies.
“In recent years, mindfulness techniques have also emerged as an effective approach to addressing both stress and anxiety.”