Positive stress- two words you don’t usually hear in the same sentence. But did you know that some kinds of stress can be beneficial? Just like there are good cholesterol and bad cholesterol, there are good kinds of stress and bad kinds of stress.
What is stress?
The definition of stress is any stimulus that triggers heightened emotional and physiological response in our nervous systems. This is also known as the “fight-or-flight” response. An event perceived as stressful will change our hormone levels. The hormones are then released into the bloodstream. When this happens, it signals to our nervous system that it’s time to go into survival mode. In the past, this response could save our lives. When a predator approached, the change in our bodies helped give us to boost to escape or fight to live another day. In modern times, we don’t face the same challenges as our ancestors did but our bodies still react in the same way.
How to recognize stress
We all respond to stress differently. Stress can manifest itself in a number of physical and emotional symptoms. When we feel stressed, this emotion affects our endocrine systems. This leads to alterations within our hormone levels in our bloodstreams. If your kid is distressed they can exhibit a number of different mental, emotional, and physical symptoms depending on the situation. They may communicate this with you by telling you how they feel. They may tell share with you how frustrated they’ve been feeling lately because of something that happened at school. They may exhibit physical symptoms or emotional responses such as anger or frustration. Communication is very important when it comes to recognizing stress in your child.
How can stress be beneficial?
Moderate levels of stress can produce several surprising health benefits. Researchers at the University of Berkley found that lab rats experiencing moderate amounts of stress actually performed better cognitively than the control group. Stress caused these rats to show increased activity in their neurons.
Additionally, this study shows that there is actually a boost in memory associated with short-term stress. Temporary stress can increase learning scores, alertness, and performance. Too much stress though, has the opposite effect on memory.
Another surprising benefit of stress is how it can actually boost life satisfaction levels. Researchers at UCLA noted that subjects who had some adversity and stress in their lifetimes reported higher levels of life satisfaction than those who had not faced much stress. Moderate stress can make us more resilient and confident in the face of life’s challenges.
It is important to note that moderate stress is different from chronic stress, which has been well documented to negatively affect development. Chronic stress is characterized by long term pressure. When the fight-or-flight response is constantly triggered over a long period of time in the case of chronic stress, numerous health problems can develop. Healthy stress is short term and unhealthy stress is long term.
Here are some examples of healthy stress:
- A project deadline at school
- A big play or performance
- An important sports game
- A test
All of these are short term situations that can cause an increase in motivation due to being perceived as a challenge. These situations can be moderately stressful for your child but also give them the opportunity to grow outside of their comfort zone.
Teaching your kid healthy ways to handle stress
Stress in life is inevitable. Maybe you’ve had to deal with a stressful event today. Teaching your child how to positively cope with stress can benefit them in the long run. Stress may be unavoidable in life, but you can set your child up for a lifetime of positive habits with regards to stress. By creating these habits, you are helping them be healthier and stronger versions of themselves. Here are some research backed ways to deal with stress. You can introduce these habits to your child when they are dealing with a stressful situation at school or home.
The health benefits of meditation are well documented and extend far beyond stress. It’s never too early to teach your child to be able to sit with their thoughts and feelings. Meditation isn’t just about sitting and trying to think about nothing.. There are many different kinds of meditations available, including guided meditations and moving meditations such as yoga. Another great thing about meditation is that there are so many great (and free) resources out there. We recommend this guided relaxation treehouse meditation for kids that is available for free on Youtube.
What if I told you that research shows coloring reduces stress and increases creativity? Research from the University of West England reported subjects feeling “more energetic and calmer” after
Physical activity has numerous benefits. Exercise is a healthy way to reduce stress and improve mood. Visiting a local park, beach, or mountains can be a relaxing and fun bonding experience for the whole family. Home exercise is also a fun way to introduce exercise to your child. If you’re looking for a fun workout for kids, we recommend this 25 minute workout by FitnessBlender.