Campus News

Some stress might actually be a good thing, associate professor finds

Assaf Oshri, associate professor in the department of human development and family science in the College of Family and Consumer Sciences, spoke with U.S. News & World Report to discuss how a little bit of stress might actually help our brains.

“Some low to moderate level of perceived stress is associated with increases cognitive functioning or better cognitive functioning, and this cognitive functioning was associated with significantly less emotional problems and antisocial behavior problems,” he said.

His study examined how the brain functions and part of the stimuli your brain sees every day is perceived stress. Young adults were asked about their anxiety, attention, aggression and other behavioral and emotional problems.

The study found that there is a balance in which some stress can actually help your brain increase its capabilities, but too much stress can be detrimental.

“Your body, your brain, your psychology, your neurological system, it’s adapting to the stress, right? You’re exposed to some level of stress, and that creates or initiates some preparing mechanism, if you wish, some reorganization that will prepare you for future encounters with stress,” he said.

The ability to tolerate stress can differ from person to person and from situation to situation. Oshri used the example of a power outage to describe a small enough stress that your brain and body can learn and adapt, but is a type of stress that won’t cause long-term detriment.

“Everybody has some level of stress. It can be zero, one, but if it’s 10, if it’s very severe and uncontrollable, it becomes toxic,” Oshri said. “It’s not helping you to organize for the future. It starts to hurt you.”