Dictionary meaning of stress is: a state of mental or emotional strain or tension resulting from adverse or very demanding circumstances.
Is stress good for us?
In the book Think Twice: Harnessing the Power of Counter Intuition – Michael Mauboussin writes
Stress is often very helpful. The classic stress response mobilizes energy to your muscles by increasing your heart rate, blood pressure, and breathing. High stress also helps your sensory system. For example, policemen report that during shootouts their visual acuity and focus improves, they sense a slowdown in time, and they fail to hear sounds. For a short burst, the mind can focus intently on the task at handle. This reaction is valuable in extraordinary circumstances.
In Psychology of Human Misjudgment – Charlie Munger tells that light stress can slightly improve performance. We study very hard before the exams. During this time our body and mind will be under stress. But this is good as we learn a lot in a very short period of time. Once the exams are over our body and mind is back to normal.
Constant stress is bad
Stress is bad if it is constant. Imagine yourself going back 150,000 years. You are standing in the jungle. A cheetah is approaching towards you at full speed. What do you do? The sudden stress in your system will cause an adrenaline rush which will make you to run without thinking. In the book Think Twice: Harnessing the Power of Counter Intuition – Michael Mauboussin writes
An important feature of stress response is that it turns off long-term systems. You need not worry about your digestion, growth, disease prevention, or reproduction if you are about to be a lion’s lunch.
This makes sense as you are in the survival mode. As soon as we escape from the cheetah, our systems will be back to normal.
What happens if you are in this mode all the times. It will result in a disaster. Most of us are in this mode all the times. We take mortgage which we cannot afford. We pray that we get paycheck every month. We worry about getting laid off and not being able to pay the mortgage. This is constant stress and it is very dangerous to our health. In the book Seeking Wisdom – Peter Bevelin writes
Long-term stress exposure upsets the brain’s chemical balance. Stress may cause high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, back and stomach problems, headache, and depression. Studies show that when we feel stress the concentration of cortisol rises in the bloodstream. One effect of cortisol is to suppress the working of immune system. This makes us more vulnerable to diseases. Stress also counteracts the production of insulin (the hormone that processes blood sugar), causing the process of repair to slow down. Studies show that emotional stress creates longer recovery times in our bodies and may be more harmful to our health than non-emotional stress events like physical exercise.
Is it worth it?
Constant stress is not good to our body and the mind. It is not worth it even if it has a huge upside. Why? The downside is not reversible. It is like playing the Russian roulette. Warren Buffett tells
I have no stress whatsoever – zero. I get to do what I love to do every day. I’m surrounded by people that are terrific.
Take up work that you love to do in life. Learn as much as possible. Spend less than what you earn. Do not take life too seriously.
You can’t change the cards life has dealt you, but you can determine the way you’ll play them. – Ty Boyd