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Is stress good or bad?

Updated: Jan 17, 2022




I’ve often heard this question and stress has been misinterpreted by many; including professionals. You see stress is there as an emergency response, it prepares it for the flight, fight, freeze response. Coming from my paramedic background I know that our bodies are clever in trying to protect us both physically and psychologically with the appropriate response. In this case for a stressful situation for example it would release adrenaline, increase our heart rate, raise our blood pressure, rapid breathing and prepare us for what we may deem or perceive as a threat.


If stress is constant, then this would not be good and could lead to physical illness or mental health illness, particularly if you are having these responses, such as high blood pressure, a stroke, or burnout at work.


The definition of stress is the adverse effects of dealing with excessive pressure. Pressure is therefore the keyword here. You see pressure at the right time and place can be good in getting the most out of yourself, your team and organisation and improving performance.

Coming from my military background and other opportunities that I have been presented with, where progressive pressure, at the right stage and environments, can prepare you to overcome pressures, preparing you for a potential stressful environment. It can promote resilience and improve performance. But be careful that you don’t go straight into stress mode, as this would be detrimental for those people.


An example for me whilst in the military was the amount of time I spent on the shooting ranges, practicing, practicing, and practicing shooting targets with Speed, Acquisition, and Surprise. Then moving into buildings, adding no light, smoke, and noise filled etc. This was carefully planned, progressive, and at the right time in the programme.


But nothing quite prepares you for when you are faced with that real-life/death situation and the target or enemy shooting back. How are you going to react? You really just don’t know and hope that you have trained and prepared properly for that situation. I had trained for these situations, so they became instinctive and part of my muscle memory (like learning to ride a bike), so hopefully I could react to this situation if it ever occurred. Which it did and I was also faced with a real-life stoppage whilst the enemy was shooting back at me only metres away! What happened was instinctive and that threat was neutralised (say no more), it was my job, but it also saved my life! So, the progressive pressures of the training worked (and may be an element of luck).


So, in summary, pressure is the word that can be good if used in the right way. Stress is only there for an emergency. I hope that helps to clarify things.


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