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How to Use Stress to Your Advantage

Stressed out woman chewing on pencil while looking at laptop

The phrase stress kills may sound extreme, but studies show it isn’t all that far from the truth for some adults. Living with stress on a daily basis can lead to many different issues, from chronic aches and pains to difficulty managing your mental health. However, the right kind of stress can actually prove beneficial in your life, both on and off the job. First, let’s take a look at how stress can be a healthy component of your life, and how to harness it when the time comes.

Can Stress be Healthy?

The short answer is yes, but only the right kind of stress. Constantly experiencing feelings of overwhelm or pressure doesn’t do much good for the body, particularly when it continues on without letting up for several months, or years. However, a moderate amount of stress can be a good thing. From a psychological perspective, small stressors throughout the day prompt action. Think of this as a flight or fight responses. In many cases, the normal stress of daily life motivates us to move forward in positive ways when we choose to fight through it. Here’s how that works.

The Benefits of Good Stress

Several advantages come from stress, and they can be harnessed in various ways to our benefit.

Cognitive Function

There are moments in life that cause feelings of panic or nervousness which aren’t necessarily comfortable for most. However, recognizing the small stressors that cause these feelings can actually improve cognitive function in the moment. Your brain gets a performance boost when stress comes along because neuron connections are stronger. This can result in better memory, greater attention span, and creativity.


With improved cognitive function comes increased productivity for many adults, and moderate stress can be used to stay motivated to get the job done. Whether you are at work or at home, external stressors like deadlines, performance reviews, or honey-do lists keep you on your toes. Having the pressure of knowing something needs to get done or a negative consequence will result leads to increased productivity in a shorter period of time.


Experiencing stress regularly helps us develop the tools and strategies necessary to harness it for good. Over time, the successful use of stress helps build resilience. While this is most commonly used to manage moderate stress in the future in similar situations, resilience also plays a significant role in other scenarios that may be far more stressful. Significant life changes, unexpected loss, or facing an illness can all be managed that much better when resilience is built up over time.

Managing Bad Stress

Although stress can be used for good in certain circumstances, leaving the stress to fester over the long haul is not beneficial to your health. Behavioral, emotional, and physical issues can arise when long-term stress is not managed well or avoided altogether, including pain, diminished relationships, and mental health challenges. Managing bad stress requires a multifaceted approach for many, such as finding the underlying cause and finding ways to reduce or eliminate stress when it takes place.

Combining the management or reduction of bad stress with harnessing the power of good stress can lead to a healthier, more enjoyable life.

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