The holidays can present a wonderful opportunity to slow down and enjoy life. But they also produce a lot of stress leading up to those moments.
But guess what? A new study shows that a little bit of stress can be good.
Everybody knows that bad chronic stress can contribute to health problems, but there isn’t that much known about how limited stress can impact health. That’s why researchers decided to examine how low to moderate stress can affect people.
They found that low-to-moderate levels of perceived stress were associated with higher working memory neural activation, which results in better mental performance.
Working memory is the short-term information you use daily, like remembering a phone number or getting to your job or the grocery store.
The study featured more than 1,000 people from diverse backgrounds who were participants in the Connectome Project, a project sponsored by the U.S. National Institutes of Health.
Researchers asked participants whether they believe they have a meaningful life, if friend- or family-based support was available, how often they may have become upset in the past month, or if they could cope with daily life.
Participants were shown a series of images to assess working memory and asked to recall them. Lastly, MRIs were taken as participants performed tasks that would activate parts of the brain associated with working memory.
People who reported experiencing low or moderate stress had increased activity on parts of the brain involving working memory, while those reporting high stress had a decline in those areas.
So if you’re mildly stressing about the holidays, it could be helping your memory a little bit. And thankfully, if you’re going to see friends and family, they can help you cope with the things you are going through.