Back to Blog

Retraining the brain so stress can be a good thing

Apr 17, 2024

Stress can be a good thing - seriously.

Just like anything, too much is not good, but neither is not enough.

Why do we feel stress?

Stress alerts us to something creating pressure. The source of stress may be physical, emotional, situational, interpersonal, or environmental. Whether a work deadline, over-exerting ourselves, or being spread too thin, stressful situations signal to our brain that there is something to be aware of and cope with.

How does stress affect us?

In the short-term, stress sets off the stress response - activating the amygdala (the emotional processing part of the brain) and sending a cascade of stress hormones, activating our sympathetic nervous system. This often feels like heart racing, butterflies, rapid breathing, and that overall "stressed out" feeling.

In the long-term, prolonged stress can contribute to health issues and increase the risk of depression and anxiety. 

How can we manage stress? 

Thankfully, psychology and neuroscience show us ways to cope with stress, de-escalate the stress response, and actually make stress work for us rather than against us.

Let's talk about how to reframe our mindset about stress.

According to a leading psychology theory - cognitive behavioral theory - our thoughts affect our feelings and actions. This means how we think about stress matters. Instead of interpreting stress as a negative, reframing it in a positive light can change how we feel, how our brain and body respond, and even our actions and performance. 

We actually need some stress to grow and learn. It allows us to expand our comfort zone and build new skills. Stress points out that something is important to us or that something we value is being threatened - both of which are important for us to know and respond to.

According to the Yerkes-Dodson Law, feeling some stress can actually boost our performance. A healthy level of stress (not too little, not too much) can help us perform better, be more alert, and motivate us to practice until practice makes (near) perfect. 

So, next time you’re feeling a bit stressed - whether for an upcoming meeting, a packed workweek, or another challenge - see if you can reframe it:

… as a sign something is important to you

… as something giving you the extra kick you need to prepare and be on point

… as a challenge you can totally take on


Have you tried reframing stress as a positive instead of a negative?

What is one area you could give this a try?


Want to learn more about how our thoughts affect our feelings and actions? Check out this post on the Brainy Day blog!

Click here to subscribe to the The Brainy Day Newsletter for more insights on building a healthier and happier brain! 🧠