We're commonly told that modern-day stress is the root cause of many of our health problems, both mental and physical. But new research suggests that some stress can be good for us - and even help us look younger.
The joy of stress
For decades, it was assumed that stress added to our physical and mental strain, causing our bodies to break down faster and age quickly.
However Dr Marios Kyriazis, an anti-ageing specialist and the medical director of the British Longevity Society, disagrees.
Unveiling research at an Anti-Ageing Conference in London, Dr Kyriazis argued that stress can actually help the body to bolster its natural defences.
The science bit
The good news is we all have an internal, self-repairing mechanism that kicks in when our bodies are put under strain, automatically repairing damage to our cells and helping rebuild them.
The bad news, however, is that this process slows down from about the age of 35. As the body becomes worse at repairing itself, we become gradually more prone to illness and physical decline.
It's here, that the benefits of stress come in.
So why is stress good?
When we're put under stress our body's responses speed up, forcing the bio-repair action to occur. Placing ourselves in certain stressful situations makes these responses happen more often, reversing the natural decline that takes place over the years.
Because the body's response in dealing with the stress is greater than the damage it causes, the cells actually become stronger than they were - a process that's called hormesis. By regularly 'exercising' your cells with mild-to-moderate stress, you can help keep them strong and resistant to disease.
'Good' stress versus 'bad' stress
But before you give in to road-rage, bear in mind that only the right kind of stress will do.
For maximum health benefits stress needs to be short-term and only mildly stimulating, and with a positive result at the end.
Long-term stress is still best avoided - it really does do us damage. Dr Kyriazis cited full-time caring on a low income as one of the worst forms of 'bad' stress. Even commuter rage is bad as it's something you can't really control.
Instead you need to be presented with a mildly pressurised task (last-minute packing for the airport, meeting a deadline or quickly tidying the house before friends come round etc.) that can be dealt with fairly quickly and effectively, leaving you with some sense of achievement at the end.
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