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Quick Dose: When Is Stress Good For You?

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The Right Amount of Stress Can Be Healthy

Stress is your body and brain’s response to the demands of daily life. Work, school, relationships and major life changes can be stressful – but, not all stress is bad.

Stress can motivate you to prepare for a job interview or a test at school. It can help you to manage adversity, and it often forces you to step outside your comfort zone.

Stress can also be life-saving, with the “fight-or-flight” response – the way your body reacts when faced to perceived harm or dangerous situations.

Over time, however, long-term stress can build up and result in serious health conditions such as inflammatory bowel disease, migraine headaches, fibromyalgia, hypertension and cardiac disease, just to name a few. Long-term stress may also result in mental health problems such as generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder and a range of depressive disorders. Behavioral disorders such as alcohol, or other substance abuse, and eating disorders may also develop due to attempts to soothe or self-medicate symptoms of either acute or long-term stress.

While a healthy moderate dose of stress can make you more resilient, consult your physician if the stress in your life is affecting your physical health or ability to get through the day.

Danesh Alam, MD, Medical Director, Northwestern Medicine
Central DuPage Hospital Behavioral Health Services

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