Heart attacks, blood pressure, even cancer – stress gets a bad rap for its long-term effects, but could small doses of stress actually be good for you?
Stanford University researchers followed patients after they had knee surgery and found that those who were more stressed before their operations not only healed faster, but also reported feeling less pain.
The researchers suggested short bursts of stress served to ward off infection, help wounds to heal and even speed up the recovery following surgery. They even proposed injections of stress hormones to help people recover from illness.
Essentially, the body’s evolved response to stress is to defend against attack – cells are mobilised in the bloodstream, skin cells prepare to handle injuries and the immune system goes on alert. The response, which researchers described as “mustering troops”, lasts about two hours.
So while long-term stress is still bad news, a few last minute projects and tight deadlines might actually benefit you and your employees.
“You don’t want to keep your immune system on high alert at all times,” Professor Firdaus Dhabhar said. “But the evidence does suggest that putting oneself under short-term stress during procedures like vaccination or surgery can boost immune defences. The key is that the stress really has to be short-term, lasting only for minutes or hours.”
So maybe next time you’ve got a work crisis to resolve you should consider the long-term benefits of your short-term stress.
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