New Study Finds Why Stress Could Make You More Inclined To Help Others

mbg Editorial Assistant By Christina Coughlin
mbg Editorial Assistant
Christina Coughlin is an editorial assistant at mindbodygreen. She graduated from Georgetown University in 2019 with a degree in psychology and music.
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Image by Susana Ramirez / Stocksy

While too much stress can be toxic to your health, the right kind of stress can actually have some benefits. Good stress can motivate you and push you to your goals, but bad stress contributes to illness and disease. A new study, however, has found that people are more likely to give emotional support to others when they are stressed themselves. 

Researchers interviewed over 1,600 participants over a period of eight days. At the end of each day, interviewers asked each person about anything that stressed them out that particular day, such as a stressful event at work, school, or home. Participants were also asked if they gave or received emotional support that day. After collecting the data, researchers concluded that people were more than two times as likely to give or receive emotional support on days when they experienced stress—and it continued into the next day as well. 

"We saw that someone experiencing a stressor today actually predicted them giving emotional support the next day," says researcher David Almeida, Ph.D. "This made me think that it's actually possible that stress helps to drive you to other people and allows it to be okay to talk about problems—your problems, my problems."

Social interaction is an important way to foster positive relationships and boost our health—both mentally and physically. This research shows us that supporting other people can help us, too, and finding ways to relate to those around us can improve well-being. 

"Our findings suggest that just because we have a bad day, that doesn't mean it has to be completely unhealthy," Almeida says. "If stress can actually connect us with other people, which I think is absolutely vital to the human experience, I think that's a benefit. Stress could potentially help people deal with negative situations by driving them to be with other people."

With these findings, researchers hope that future interventions for stress can be more geared toward social interactions, eventually finding a way to treat stress that incorporates other people in order to heal together.

If you're feeling stressed, check out our best science-backed ways to calm down naturally, and try talking to a friend.

Ready to learn how to fight inflammation and address autoimmune disease through the power of food? Join our 5-Day Inflammation Video Summit with mindbodygreen’s top doctors.

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