The stress of looming deadlines and other pressure at work could actually be beneficial for people’s mental health, according to a study published in Psychiatry Research.
The study found that low to moderate levels of stress could help individuals build resilience and reduce the risk of developing mental health disorders, such as depression and antisocial behaviour.
“If you’re in an environment where you have some levels of stress, you may develop coping mechanisms that will allow you to become a more efficient and effective worker, and organise yourself in a way that will help you perform,” said Assaf Oshri, the author of the story.
“Sometimes, stress keeps you busy with your work. It doesn’t leave any space to feel emptiness,” Dr Manovikas Prasad, a psychiatrist in Hyderabad, to South First.
“For example, you are working on a project in your company and you are confident about your work, and you have to give presentations after a week. The whole week you will be stressed about your presentation and will give little or no time to feel emptiness. After a week your presentation will go as you expected, and you will feel happy due to the dopamine released after the pleasure you will get after the satisfaction of the presentation,” he explained.
The study found that low-to-moderate stress levels were linked to an overall reduced risk of psychopathology, indicating psychological benefits induced by limited stress.
In contrast, higher perceived stress levels were related to elevated risks for psychopathology, it determined.
“The stress that comes from studying for an exam, preparing for a presentation, or pitching ideas to a venture capitalist, and positive results coming out of all these, benefits an individual,” psychiatrist Dr N Prasad Rao told South First.
“However, if any individual takes stress at higher levels, it neither helps them out in their work nor does it bring about any positive results,” he added.
The study also found that stressful environments might prompt individuals to be resourceful and cognitively flexible to develop strategies and skills that help them overcome adversity.
“When deadlines for a presentation approach and a person is stressed about it, they try to find one way or the another to finish the task,” explained Prasad.
“People become more resourceful and also try to put their cognitive skills from experience to the test, and at the end of the day finish the presentation. So, being stressful also opens the mind,” he added.
However, stress becomes toxic at a certain point, added the psychiatrists.
“If you talk about the everyday stress of achieving your goal to become rich because you are born poor, it leads to chronic stress and it becomes toxic, which may lead you to depression and becoming antisocial,” said Rao.