We know that stress can cause havoc but a study says that acute stress can actually be good for us.
Short-term stress can actually be very good for us as it generates a fight-or-flight response, mobilizes bodily resources in response to immediate threat and activates the body's defenses, reports Prof. Firdaus Dhabhar in the Journal of Psychoneuroendocrinology.
AdvertisementDhabhar is an associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences and member of the Stanford University Institute for Immunity, Transplantation, and Infection.
The immune system, as we know, is crucial for fighting or preventing infections and for healing wounds both of which occur commonly during chases, escapes, combat and other risky times.
Dhabhar collaborated with his colleagues at Stanford and two other universities to demonstrate this fact. Their work showed that subjecting lab rats to mild stress created a massive influx of several types of immune cells into the bloodstream and, later on, onto the skin and other tissues.
"This large-scale migration of immune cells, which took place in over two hours, was comparable to the mustering of troops in a crisis", Dhabhar said.
Investigators demonstrated that the huge redistribution of immune cells all over the body was brought about by three hormones that were released by the adrenal glands in different amounts and at different times, in response to a stressful event. These findings tell us how the mind influences our immune responses.
"These hormones are the brain's call-to-arms to the rest of the body"." Mother Nature gave us the fight-or-flight stress response to help us, not to kill us," Dhabhar said.
Prof. Dhabhar has been experimenting on the effects of the stress hormones on the immune system for well over a decade. He, along with his colleagues, had previously demonstrated that a similar immune-cell redistribution in surgery patients does enhance their postoperative recovery.
Stress is of two types acute and chronic. Acute stress has a short term duration and is common in every day life. It is the type of stress that is cited as beneficial. Chronic stress on the other hand, is extremely detrimental for one's well being and needs to be appropriately managed.