Stress: the Good, the Bad and the Ugly

4 min readOct 31, 2021
Photo by Juliana Malta on Unsplash

In Health, we typically run into scenarios where you can not tell whether a certain thing is good or not. For example, it is generally accepted that stress is bad for health. Stress in medical terms corresponds to higher level of cortisol and adrenaline(also called epinephrine) hormone in body. However, exercise increases the level of cortisol and adrenaline in the body. And it is also generally accepted that exercise is very good for body and mind. I can personally vouch for that based on my experience with exercise.

Good to have a working definition of stress. As per The Mental Health Foundation of UK, “Stress is the feeling of being overwhelmed or unable to cope with mental or emotional pressure.” (

So is Stress good or bad? May be it is like friction which impedes motion but in real world there would be no motion possible if there were no friction. For example, you can not walk on ice because it is so slippery because of lack of friction.

The stress is good when it is short term and transient. That is what people experience in sports. Also when a challenge is within reach of our abilities we find it enjoyable to beat it. Long term stress with lack of control and lack of predictability is detrimental to good health. And if stress is not properly managed things turn real ugly health wise over long term. It can manifests itself in bad health consequences such as diabetes, heart disease, cancer,…

What do experts say?

If you are interested in how stress is viewed formally by leading experts, “Stress Portrait of a killer” is a good documentary to watch. It is summarized quite well at This documentary overall mostly emphasizes negative consequences of stress.

It is very interesting that Stanford Neurobiologist Robert Sapolsky studied wild baboons in Kenya’s Masai Mara reserve and found that most of the stress these baboons felt was of social origin and related to their position in social hierarchy. The weaker baboons who were lower in society status were harassed by stronger higher-status baboons.

lower-status weaker baboons have lack of control and lack of predictability in their life…