When Stress is good

Francesco Attanasio
8 min readNov 28, 2019

Did we think that the ideal was a quiet life, without stress and strong emotions? Okay, the answer is no.

Data emerging from a historical American research lasting 90 years: 1,500 children were followed during the whole of their existence, to identify risk factors but especially the elements that ensure a long and healthy life.
Including precisely stress. At least, it is what emerged from the articles published in newspapers.

Things are a bit more complicated. What emerges from today’s project Longevity signed by psychologists Howard S. Friedman and Leslie Martin — and the culmination of a historical study initiated in 1921 by Lewis Terman, one of the fathers of American psychology, author of important tests on IQ — is that in life it is important to set goals. In other words, to live, not just vegetate. “We have seen”, says Friedman, “that highly motivated people, who have worked harder and achieved good success in the workplace, are also the most enduring”. From the research it became clear that the hard work is not harmful to health at all “and that it is not necessary to lead a boring and lacking in interest for a living for a long time”, says Friedman. Indeed, the data confirm that the opposite is true.

“Stress as such is simply a reaction to an external stimulus is our way of adapting to what is happening around us. And therefore, also the positive events — we think for example of a promotion at work — can be a source of stress”. Everything depends on how we live it: “we are intelligent enough to hurt ourselves on our own, but these same characteristics can teach us to better manage our stress” recalls Robert Sapolsky, one of the fathers of studies on stress, who uses his research on life of the apes to understand how psychological factors contribute to making a physiological response harmful which is also the engine of our existence.

“The important thing is to give an assessment of both cognitive and emotional type of what happens to us”. Our reactions and our way of reacting arise from our personal history, and an objective evaluation that does not only consider emotions can be useful — I am in love with that person, I want to achieve that goal — but also an objective evaluation of our potential — am I able to reach that goal? Is that really what I want? — and of our well-being…

Francesco Attanasio

Agile/Lean Coach and Trainer. Professional Scrum Master, Certified Scrum Professional (CSP), Certified ScrumMaster (CSM).