Why Stress Can Be Good
You may have read the title of this email and wondered how I would possibly argue that stress is good for us.
Sure, toxic and chronic stress are definitely not good; just ask anyone who struggles with PTSD. But facing everyday stress, like how to study for a test and go to gymnastic practice in the same evening, is a great way for students to learn how to navigate adulthood, which throws things at us at every turn.
This New York Times article explains that experiencing stress can actually help us rise to the occasion and perform better than we would without it. It also warns that many parents are trying to shield their child from experiencing any stress at all, and this does not actually serve the child. Lisa Damour, the author of the article, argues that "...we should appreciate that healthy stress is inevitable when we operate at the edge of our abilities. Stretching beyond familiar limits doesn’t always feel good, but growing and learning — the keys to school and much of life — can’t happen any other way."
I agree. When I push my students ever so slightly out of their comfort zone, they often complain, say they can't do it, or try to distract me or themselves from the task at hand. But once they try the thing I'm asking them to do (and do it several times) they often see that it isn't so hard. Then they are ready for another push.
The other take-away from this article is that, yes, stress can be good for pushing students out of their comfort zone, but we also need to give them time to rest in between bouts of intensity. If your child's schedule doesn't include any down time, it is time to take a hard look at that and let something go so they can have time to rest, play, daydream, imagine, or the perennial favorite: sleep.
Definitely check out the full article to learn more about the benefits of stress.