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Quick Dose: When Is Stress Good For You?

Stress is your body and brain’s response to the demands of daily life: work, school, relationships and major life changes. While high levels of chronic stress can have negative health consequences, some types of stress can be helpful.

For example, 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. It triggers your body's, “fight-or-flight” response – when faced with perceived harm or dangerous situations.

Over time, however, chronic stress can lead to serious health conditions such as inflammatory bowel disease, migraine headaches, fibromyalgia, hypertension and cardiac disease. 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 substance misuse and eating disorders may also develop due to attempts to soothe or self-medicate symptoms of either acute or long-term stress.

While a 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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