We have been raised to believe that stress is bad for us, since it can cause us to feel anxious or depressed, and we’re often told we’d do well to minimise the amount of stress we experience in our lives. Unfortunately, completely eradicating stress is near-on impossible, since we experience it almost everyday, sometimes even without realising.
However, some stress can actually be good for you, since in every situation stress enters our lives, it causes the fight or flight response from our bodies. Sometimes, this ‘good’ or ‘natural’ stress is known as acute stress, named so because it doesn’t tend to last very long, ranging from a few hours to maybe a couple of days. Chronic stress, on the other hand, is the ‘bad’ type of stress that we do want to avoid, because, according to VeryWellMind.com, it “is a prolonged and constant feeling of stress that can negatively affect your health if it goes untreated.”
So, since we’re only here to talk about the good stuff and leave you feeling positive, we’re going to focus on acute stress and its potential benefits. One man who wants to encourage us to experience acute stress is Irish MMA fighter Conor McGregor. In a recent Tweet, picked up by biohacker Dave Asprey, Conor says, “Exposure to acute stressors daily will make you infinitely stronger!”
Morning coffee 🌞
Exposure to acute stressors daily will make you infinitely stronger!
Acute Stressors – coffee. Sunshine. Exercise. Sauna. Ice water immersion. Fasting.
Sprinkle some of this into your life and voila! – you are now @McGregorFast! pic.twitter.com/xaZaMqBW9L
— Conor McGregor (@TheNotoriousMMA) October 5, 2021
How so? You may ask.
Acute stressors are ones that inhibit a short burst of adrenaline, and it can be something mild “like an alarm clock going off, a new assignment at work, or even a phone call that needs to be answered when you’re relaxing on the couch and your phone is across the room,” according to VeryWellMind.
In Conor’s case, his examples of beneficial acute stressors include, “coffee. Sunshine. Exercise. Sauna. Ice water immersion. Fasting.”
“Sprinkle some of this into your life and voila!”
These are great examples of acute stressors because when we expose our body to any of them, our body is challenged. VeryWellMind adds exactly what happens during an episode of acute stress:
“During an acute stress response, the autonomic nervous system is activated and the body experiences increased levels of cortisol, adrenaline and other hormones that produce an increased heart rate, quickened breathing rate, and higher blood pressure.”
Ice water immersion is a perfect example of an activity we don’t really want to do, and one we won’t really enjoy – for the first few minutes, at least – but something that brings numerous benefits. Joe Rogan is a keen advocate of cold water therapy, along with Wim Hof and even Dan Bilzerian. Ice baths and even cold showers can help boost muscle recovery, immunity, circulation, alertness and even aid with depression.
Sunshine (especially early in the morning) and exercise are both proven to benefit our circadian rhythm and overall health, respectively, and fasting can help you to both build muscle and even prevent heart disease.
If you’re still not convinced, a 2013 study conducted by researchers of the University of California, Berkeley, examined the effects of acute stressors on rats. The research team ultimately found, “…that significant, but brief stressful events caused stem cells in their brains to proliferate into new nerve cells that, when mature two weeks later, improved the rats’ mental performance.”
To obtain their findings, the research team left rats in their cage for a few hours, causing an acute stress response, since they had nowhere else to go, but would have wanted to experience some freedom.
“This led to stress hormone (corticosterone) – a hormone similar to cortisol in humans – levels as high as those from chronic stress, though for only a few hours. The stress doubled the proliferation of new brain cells in the hippocampus, specifically in the dorsal dentate gyrus.”
UC Berkeley post-doctoral fellow Elizabeth Kirby; “discovered that the stressed rats performed better on a memory test two weeks after the stressful event, but not two days after the event. Using special cell labelling techniques, the researchers established that the new nerve cells triggered by the acute stress were the same ones involved in learning new tasks two weeks later.”
While you may initially be skeptical to the idea that acute stress can be good for you, because you don’t see or feel immediate benefits, over time, the brain can mature and produce new cells. Consequently, the UC Berkeley team added that exposure to prolonged chronic stress, “demonstrates elevated levels of glucocorticoid stress hormones, which suppresses the production of new neurons in the hippocampus, impairing memory.”
So, even if you don’t necessarily agree or encourage Conor McGregor’s lavish lifestyle, the man can indeed have some words of wisdom. Try adding some his suggestions into your daily routine and notice how you feel after a few weeks.
The results may surprise you.