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Positive Stress: How to Recognize and Handle It

Positive Stress

In this article, we will discuss:

Positive stress sounds somewhat conflicting, right?  But in actuality, certain forms of stress can be beneficial.  Just like there are good cholesterol and bad cholesterol, stress can be both harmful and helpful.

What is stress?

The definition of stress is any stimulus that triggers heightened emotional and physiological responses in our nervous systems.

The definition of stress is any stimulus that triggers heightened emotional and physiological responses 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 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 a boost to escape and 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

Hopefully, she’ll communicate this with you by telling you how she feels. Unfortunately, many times children cannot articulate their stress, so it is released in physical symptoms instead.  Your daughter may complain of stomach or head aches, she could struggle to fall asleep at night, or she might become agitated and frustrated.

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, which leads to alterations within the hormone levels in our bloodstreams. If your child is distressed, she can exhibit a number of different mental, emotional, and physical symptoms depending on the situation. Hopefully, she’ll communicate this with you by telling you how she feels. Unfortunately, many times children cannot articulate their stress, so it is released in physical symptoms instead.  Your daughter may complain of stomach or head aches, she could struggle to fall asleep at night, or she might become agitated and frustrated.  Chronic stress is a prolonged and constant feeling of stress that can negatively affect your health if it goes untreated.  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. Communication is very important when it comes to recognizing stress in your child; note these symptoms as indicators that your daughter might be experiencing negative stress. 

Chronic stress is a prolonged and constant feeling of stress that can negatively affect your health if it goes untreated.

How stress can be beneficial?

Moderate levels of stress, unlike chronic 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. 

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.

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.

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 her the opportunity to grow outside of her comfort zone.

Teaching your daughter healthy ways to handle stress

Stress in life is inevitable, so teaching your child how to positively cope with stress will benefit her in the long run. By developing healthy coping habits in your daughter, you are helping her be a healthier and stronger version of herself. Here are some research-backed ways to deal with stress. You can introduce these habits to your child when she is dealing with a stressful situation at school or home.

Meditation

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 her thoughts and feelings. Many different kinds of meditation exist, including guided and moving meditations like yoga. Another great thing about meditation is that there are so many free resources.. We recommend this guided relaxation treehouse meditation for kids that is available for free on Youtube.

Coloring

Research from the University of West England reported subjects as feeling reduced levels of stress and “more energetic and calmer” after 20 minute coloring sessions. Doing this fun activity with your child can help both of you relieve stress and express emotions through color. There are many free coloring page resources online. Here are some free printable mandala coloring pages if you are interested.  

Exercise

Physical activity has numerous benefits. Exercise is a healthy way to reduce stress and improve mood. Spending active time outdoors 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.

Remember, stress doesn’t always have to be negative.  Help your child learn how to thrive in the face of positive stress and how to cope with the symptoms of negative stress.  Understanding the difference and the common symptoms of both will be essential to her development as she navigates all of life’s inevitable and unexpected challenges. 

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