Why Stress is Essentially Useful

Why Stress is Essentially Useful

In these hectic times, we mainly associate stress with negative things, such as burn-outs and heart problems. We seem to forget that stress is essentially useful. Stress doctor Luc Swinnen explains why this is the case.


"A little bit of stress is not a bad thing, we know that since evolution theory", says Dr Luc Swinnen. "It's not the strongest that survive, but those who know best how to adapt to the threatening situation. To put it in other words: those who are under pressure. Stress motivates you to look ahead, to focus your brain and to look for a way out. It can help you out of the situation you are stuck in."




According to Swinnen this is also the reason why people who live on the edge of tectonic plates are on average more intelligent than others. Nature constantly challenges them. They have no choice but to adapt to the changing environment. The lesson that you as an employee need to take from it, is that you cannot stand still. You need stimuli - or call it stress - to evolve. Following a training, engaging in a new project: it is good for your wellbeing and for your long-term career. Side-note: stress should of course not last too long. Quick. successive periods of stress or intense amounts of stress are not healthy, because these do not allow you to recover sufficiently. So you need to challenge yourself, but with moderation. 


You can perfectly learn to deal with certain types of stress, by the way. "Consider for instance time pressure", Swinnen says. "That type of stress is very different from stress during a mourning period or because of chronical money problems. What always works for me is the pomodoro technique, a classic within time management. Every half hour my tomato alarm goes off and I take ten minutes off. After two hours I stop working for half an hour. By working during short blocks, I manage to concentrate better, I experience less stress and at the end of the day I have done far more than I would've if I would have worked non-stop all day."




A healthy dose of stress can also improve your physical performance. Stress hormones raise your blood pressure, increase your heart rate and activate your muscles. This is illustrated perfectly in top-level sport. The adrenaline often causes athletes to deliver their best results during matches. For the workplace this means that stress can for instance cause you to be more alert during negotiations and that you have sharper retorts. Again, the condition is that stress should come in moderation. If not, it will adversely affect your performance. And again, sports offer plenty of examples to prove this. 

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