Not sure how entrepreneurs (or their spouses) will take this news, but University of California researchers have found that stress can actually be a “powerful and essential mediator of mammalian behavior.” In other words, and to dumb this way, way down: They studied rats and found that up to a certain point, stress actually boosted cognitive function. Once pushed beyond that point, stress took its negative toll.
I’m not sure if this is common sense or not, but it reminds me of a quote I heard on a screenwriting podcast a few weeks ago. Screenwriting, like entrepreneurship, is typically a thankless endeavor, and as such it can supremely stressful.
So how can you tell if you’re pushing yourself too far, or maybe if you’re following the wrong calling?
Well, on this aforementioned podcast, they were discussing exactly this and the oddly poignant consensus was: If you truly are doing what you are supposed to be doing, you will work hard and be excited most of the time; if you are doing something your heart isn’t in it, you will work hard and feel exhaustion more dominantly.
At any point, you’re likely to feel both, but you should keep a tab on your general mental state and see if the stress is helping you (exciting you) or hurting you (exhausting you).
Or, in this study’s words: Acute stress (one-time events like a job interview) may actually be necessary for our health and staying engaged in our activities. Chronic stress is more like the latter examples mentioned above: They’ll wear you out and wear you down over a period of time.
The beautiful thing about this news? The researchers aren’t sure why acute stress can help us out, but it can — two weeks later.
“Some amounts of stress are good to push you just to the level of optimal alertness, behavioral and cognitive performance,” study Co-Author/Professor Daniela Kaufer told the university’s newspaper.
David Wolinsky is a freelance writer and a lifelong Chicagoan. In addition to currently serving as an interviewer-writer for Adult Swim, he's also a comedy-writing instructor for Second City and an adjunct professor in DePaul’s College of Computing and Digital Media. (He also co-runs a blog behind the DePaul class, DIY Game Dev.) He was the Chicago city editor for The Onion A.V. Club where he provided in-depth daily coverage of this city's bustling arts/entertainment scene for half a decade. His first career aspirations were to be a game-show host.