It can be, but it can be good for you, too—a fact scientists tend to ignore and regular folks don't appreciate.
If you aren't already paralyzed with stress from reading the financial news, here's a sure way to achieve that grim state: read a medical-journal article that examines what stress can do to your brain. Stress, you'll learn, is crippling your neurons so that, a few years or decades from now, Alzheimer's or Parkinson's disease will have an easy time destroying what's left. That's assuming you haven't already died by then of some other stress-related ailment such as heart disease. As we enter what is sure to be a long period of uncertainty—a gantlet of lost jobs, dwindling assets, home foreclosures and two continuing wars—the downside of stress is certainly worth exploring. But what about the upside? It's not something we hear much about.
In the past several years, a lot of us have convinced ourselves that stress is unequivocally negative for everyone, all the time. We've blamed stress for a wide variety of problems, from slight memory lapses to full-on dementia—and that's just in the brain. We've even come up with a derisive nickname for people who voluntarily plunge into stressful situations: they're "adrenaline junkies."
Sure, stress can be bad for you, especially if you react to it with anger or depression or by downing five glasses of Scotch. But what's often overlooked is a common-sense counterpoint: in some circumstances, it can be good for you, too. It's right there in basic-psychology textbooks. As Spencer Rathus puts it in "Psychology: Concepts and Connections," "some stress is healthy and necessary to keep us alert and occupied." Yet that's not the theme that's been coming out of science for the past few years. "The public has gotten such a uniform message that stress is always harmful," says Janet DiPietro, a developmental psychologist at Johns Hopkins University. "And that's too bad, because most people do their best under mild to moderate stress."
当然，压力对你来讲不全是不好的，特别是如果你从生气或失望或喝下5背苏格兰威士忌中反应过来。但是，一个普通的感觉点常常忽视：在某些情况中，压力同样对你来说也可能是好事。在基础心理学课本中，这么说是正确的。就像Spencer Rathus说的那样：“心理学：概念和连线”，“有些压力是健康并且必须的，以此来使我们警惕和有足够的注意力。”但是这个理论在过去的几年中并没有科学依据。“大众总是收到统一的信息，压力总是不好的。”Janet DiPietro说，他是Johns Hopkins 大学的发展心理学家，“而这非常不好，因为更多的大众进他们全力去维持比较温和的压力。”
The stress response—the body's hormonal reaction to danger, uncertainty or change—evolved to help us survive, and if we learn how to keep it from overrunning our lives, it still can. In the short term, it can energize us, "revving up our systems to handle what we have to handle," says Judith Orloff, a psychiatrist at UCLA. In the long term, stress can motivate us to do better at jobs we care about. A little of it can prepare us for a lot later on, making us more resilient. Even when it's extreme, stress may have some positive effects—which is why, in addition to posttraumatic stress disorder, some psychologists are starting to define a phenomenon called posttraumatic growth. "There's really a biochemical and scientific bias that stress is bad, but anecdotally and clinically, it's quite evident that it can work for some people," says Orloff. "We need a new wave of research with a more balanced approach to how stress can serve us." Otherwise, we're all going to spend far more time than we should stressing ourselves out about the fact that we're stressed out.
When I started asking researchers about "good stress," many of them said it essentially didn't exist. "We never tell people stress is good for them," one said. Another allowed that it might be, but only in small ways, in the short term, in rats. What about people who thrive on stress, I asked—people who become policemen or ER docs or air-traffic controllers because they like seeking out chaos and putting things back in order? Aren't they using stress to their advantage? No, the researchers said, those people are unhealthy. "This business of people saying they 'thrive on stress'? It's nuts," Bruce Rabin, a distinguished psychoneuroimmunologist, pathologist and psychiatrist at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, told me. Some adults who seek out stress and believe they flourish under it may have been abused as children or permanently affected in the womb after exposure to high levels of adrenaline and cortisol, he said. Even if they weren't, he added, they're "trying to satisfy" some psychological need. Was he calling this a pathological state, I asked—saying that people who feel they perform best under pressure actually have a disease? He thought for a minute, and then: "You can absolutely say that. Yes, you can say that."
当我开始告诉研究者们“压力的益处”时，他们中的大多数说这个基本上不存在。“我们从不告诉大众压力对他们有益。”其中一个说。另外一个允许它存在，但仅仅在某些小方面存在，在很短的时间里存在。那些饱受压力摧残的人怎么样呢？我问——那些是警察、急诊室文件管理者、空中协管员，因为他们看起来沉溺于混留言之中而使各类事物有序。他们不吧他们经历过的压力看做是一种优势么？不，研究院回答，这类人心里不健康。“这类人说他们‘沉溺于压力’中？这是事实。”Bruce Rabin告诉我。他是Pittsburgh School of Medicine学校的病理神经学家、病理学家及精神病学家。他说，那些沉溺于压力并且相信这样的状态会使他们成瘾的成年人在长期受到高水平的肾上腺素和皮质醇影响下，像孩子一样或者受到长期影响。甚至他们以前不这样，他补充道，他们“试着去满足”一些生理需求。他是否到达了一个病理状态？我问道——传说那些感觉到他们做的很好的是否有问题呢？他想了一下说：“你几乎是在说：是的，你可以这么说。”