Good and Bad Stress revisited

Healthnut
3 min readOct 17, 2022
Photo by Luis Villasmil on Unsplash

I had written about good and bad stress about a year ago (https://medium.com/@health-nut/stress-the-good-the-bad-and-the-ugly-9d2e6f6e4573) . Nothing defines our times like stress!

When reading Mark Manson’s recent article https://medium.com/@markmanson/10-cool-things-about-the-brain-and-what-it-means-for-you-792b28e486c, the point 4) about “how stress kills brain cells” caught my attention. I have been learning about stress for a while. This article is my way to consolidate what I have learnt and understood about stress.

It is chronic stress that kills brain cells. Stress is like friction in the sense that just like you can not have any motion without friction, you can not get anything worthwhile done without stress. So there is good stress and bad stress.

I also want to emphasize that mother nature did not evolve the stress mechanism just to annoy us modern humans! Stress has played important part in evolution and helped us survive all kinds of dangers over millions of years.

However, we also know that blood pressure, diabetes, depression, anxiety, … are related to stress in big way.

But it is chronic stress, specifically chronic psychosocial stress that causes elevated levels of glucocorticoids in brain that kills the brain cells or neurons. Most of us modern humans have this chronic psychosocial stress.

This leads to further paradox, that many people thrive in high chronic psychosocial stress, while other succumb to debilitating diseases.

Good nutrition, physical exercise, good sleep and effective stress management are four pillars of good health. Out of these four, the stress is the most problematic factor. You see stress means things outside your control. Nobody know what life will throw at them in next moment, next day, next year…

Information from outside environment reaches our brain through senses specifically to a part of brain called thalamus. (https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/body/22652-thalamus) . Hypothalamus is part of the brain that is responsible for memory. The input signal from environment is interpreted by mixing it with memory to help brain figure out how to respond. The relevant information stored in memory is brought to hypothalamus which constitutes working memory.

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