TIME ebola

How to Talk to Your Kids About Ebola

Electron micrograph of Ebola virus
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Here's the best way to calm kids' fear and anxiety over Ebola

Even Centers for Disease Control and Prevention director Dr. Tom Frieden admits it: “Ebola is scary.” But for kids seeing alarming headlines without understanding the context of the disease, Ebola can seem like a looming and personal threat.

TIME spoke to Dawn Huebner, a clinical child psychologist and author of the book What to Do When You Worry Too Much: A Kid’s Guide to Overcoming Anxiety about the best way to talk about Ebola with your kids—without scaring them silly.

What should I say to my child who is really scared about Ebola?
Let them know that it’s important to think about proximity—how close they themselves are to the virus. Which is to say: not very. “It’s really important to underline that we are safe in the United States, and that people who have contracted Ebola have been in West Africa or were treating patients with Ebola,” says Huebner. “Not only should parents underline how rare Ebola is, and how far away the epidemic is occurring, but also how hard the disease is to contract.” Huebner says parents can tell their older children that direct contact with an infected person’s bodily fluids like vomit or diarrhea is necessary to spread Ebola. “This has been reassuring to the children I see, as they know they are not going to be touching that,” she says.

By ages 7 and up, kids begin to grasp that their worries and fears aren’t always rational. “Parents can talk to kids about how one of the ways worries and anxiety get their power is by making us think about things that are very unlikely,” says Huebner.

Should I keep my child away from the news?
Your kids can watch the news to stay informed, but media overload is not always a good thing. “The news is often sensationalized and gives kids the idea that they are at an imminent risk,” says Huebner. When kids see endless stories about Ebola on the news, they don’t always realize they’re hearing the same thing on loop. “I’ve had kids come into my office who are under the impression that there are hundreds of people in the U.S. with Ebola.”

How do I know if my child is reacting appropriately to the news?
“An appropriate reaction would be to feel nervous and ask some questions, but to be reassured by the parents’ answers,” says Huebner. Psychologists distinguish between questions that are information-gathering, and questions that are reassurance-seeking. If a child asks reassurance-seeking questions—like “Are we going to be ok?”—once or twice, that’s normal. But asking the same questions over and over signifies that a child is really dealing with anxiety and that their concern is not being curbed. At that point, parents may need to sit their children down for a longer conversation to address their fears and concerns.

My kids don’t want to fly on an airplane over the holidays. How do I convince them they are safe?
It’s important to emphasize that the vacation destination is one that is safe, and not at great risk for Ebola. Parents can also stress that no one in the United States has yet contracted Ebola from a plane ride. However, parents should avoid making comparisons, like “It’s more likely to get in a car crash than to get Ebola.” That will only stress a child out more.

Ebola freaks me out too, and I accidentally overreacted in front of my child. How do I fix this?
“One of the wonderful things about children is that you really can revisit things that didn’t go so well the first time,” says Huebner. If parents slip up with an overreaction, they should have a conversation with their children and reference the moment. She suggests a conversation opener like this one: “I was thinking about when you overheard me on the phone with my friend. I was really overreacting. I got nervous when I heard about Ebola, and you saw me when I was nervous. Now I’ve gotten information and I’ve calmed down, and I’ve realized this is a very sad thing that’s happening far away. It’s sad, but it doesn’t have to be scary for us.” Rational, calm conversations will help ease a child’s fears about Ebola.

TIME psychology

What Are the 3 Steps to Becoming Stress-Proof?

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Eric Barker writes Barking Up the Wrong Tree.

1) Know What Really Works

Most of the things you instinctively do to relieve stress don’t work.

Via The Willpower Instinct: How Self-Control Works, Why It Matters, and What You Can Do To Get More of It:

The APA’s national survey on stress found that the most commonly used strategies were also rated as highly ineffective by the same people who reported using them. For example, only 16 percent of people who eat to reduce stress report that it actually helps them. Another study found that women are most likely to eat chocolate when they are feeling anxious or depressed, but the only reliable change in mood they experience from their drug of choice is an increase in guilt.

So what does work?

According to the American Psychological Association, the most effective stress-relief strategies are exercising or playing sports, praying or attending a religious service, reading, listening to music, spending time with friends or family, getting a massage, going outside for a walk, meditating or doing yoga, and spending time with a creative hobby. (The least effective strategies are gambling, shopping, smoking, drinking, eating, playing video games, surfing the Internet, and watching TV or movies for more than two hours.)

2) It’s All About A Feeling Of Control

As is often said, stress isn’t about what happens to you, it’s how you react to it. This is true.

We’re not as stressed when we feel in control. Again, the emphasis is on feel. Even illusory feelings of control can eliminate stress. (This is the secret to why idiots and crazy people may feel far less stress than those who see a situation clearly.)

Anything that increases your perception of control over a situation — whether it actually increases your control or not — can substantially decrease your stress level.

Via Your Brain at Work: Strategies for Overcoming Distraction, Regaining Focus, and Working Smarter All Day Long:

Steve Maier at the University of Boulder, in Colorado, says that the degree of control that organisms can exert over something that creates stress determines whether the stressor alters the organism’s functioning. His findings indicate that only uncontrollable stressors cause deleterious effects. Inescapable or uncontrollable stress can be destructive, whereas the same stress that feels escapable is less destructive, significantly so… Over and over, scientists see that the perception of control over a stressor alters the stressor’s impact.

Why do people choose to become entrepreneurs when working for yourself often means more hours for less money? Control:

A number of studies show “work-life balance” as the main reason people start their own small businesses. Yet small business owners often work more hours, for less money, than in corporate life. The difference? You are able to make more of your own choices.

Do things that increase your control of a situation ahead of time. According to one study, the stress management technique that worked best was deliberately planning your day so that stress is minimized.

The best way to reduce job stress is to get a clear idea of what is expected of you.

The trick to not worrying about work stuff while at home is to make specific plans to address concerns before you leave the office.

3) You Need Some Stress To Be Your Best.

Heavy time pressure stresses you out and kills creativity. On the other hand, having no deadlines is not optimal either. Low-to-moderate time pressure produces the best results.

Via The Progress Principle: Using Small Wins to Ignite Joy, Engagement, and Creativity at Work:

If managers regularly set impossibly short time-frames or impossibly high workloads, employees become stressed, unhappy, and unmotivated—burned out. Yet, people hate being bored. it was rare for any participant in our study to report a day with very low time pressure, such days—when they did occur—were also not conducive to positive inner work life. In general, then, low-to-moderate time pressure seems optimal for sustaining positive thoughts, feelings, and drives.

In his book The Art of Learning, Josh Waitzkin discusses one of the key elements that pro athletes like Jordan use to perform at their peak: spontaneous relaxation.

“…one of the most telling features of a dominant performer is the routine use of recovery periods.”

They’re not Zen masters who experience no stress. Far from it. But they’ve taught themselves to turn it on and off. The pros are able to fully relax during the briefest periods of rest. This prevents them from burning out during hours of play.

Via The Art of Learning:

The physiologists at LGE had discovered that in virtually every discipline, one of the most telling features of a dominant performer is the routine use of recovery periods. Players who are able to relax in brief moments of inactivity are almost always the ones who end up coming through when the game is on the line… Remember Michael Jordan sitting on the bench, a towel on his shoulders, letting it all go for a two-minute break before coming back in the game? Jordan was completely serene on the bench even though the Bulls desperately needed him on the court. He had the fastest recovery time of any athlete I’ve ever seen.

One Last Thing:

I’m stressed RIGHT NOW!!! What’s the quickest, easiest thing to do?!?!?!

Watching a video of a cute animal can reduce heart rate and blood pressure in under a minute.

Via Richard Wiseman’s excellent book 59 Seconds: Change Your Life in Under a Minute:

In an innovative study, Deborah Wells examined whether merely looking at a video of an animal can have the same type of calming and restorative effects as those created by being in its company… compared to the two control conditions, all three animal videos made the participants feel much more relaxed. To help reduce your heart rate and blood pressure in less than a minute, go online and watch a video of a cute animal.

Here you go:

This piece originally appeared on Barking Up the Wrong Tree.

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TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME health

Why So Many Women Are Crying at the Gym

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Yoga mudra Stefano Oppo—Getty Images

For a generation of stressed-out working women, exercise is as much about emotional release as it is physical training.

“Let it out! Let out the sludge!”

It’s 7am on a Tuesday, at a small dance studio in Manhattan’s Tribeca neighborhood, and Taryn Toomey is stomping her feet into the floor like thunder. “Get rid of the bullsh*t!” she shouts. “Get rid of the drama!”

Two dozen women in yoga pants and sports bras sprint in place behind her, eyes closed, arms flailing. Sweat is flying. The Beastie Boys’ “Sabotage” is blaring in the background. There are grunts and screams. “Hell yes!” a woman bellows.

When the song ends, Toomey directs the group into child’s pose, torso folded over the knees, forehead on the floor, arms spread forward. Coldplay comes on, and there is a moment of rest. “Inhale. Exhale. Feel your center,” Toomey says. Heads slowly come up, and suddenly, tears are streaming down the faces of half the room. A woman in front of me is physically trembling. “I just let it all out,” a middle-aged woman in leggings and a tank top whispers.

This is “The Class”—one part yoga, two parts bootcamp, three parts emotional release, packaged into an almost spiritual… no, tribal… 75 minutes. It is the creation of fashion exec turned yoga instructor Toomey, and it is where New York’s high-flying women go for emotional release (if, that is, they can get a spot).

“During my first class I didn’t just cry, I sobbed,” says McKenzie Hayes, a 22-year-old New Yorker who has become a regular in the class. “Whether it’s your job or your relationships, I literally picture my emotional problems being slowly unstuck from my body and moved out.”

Toomey calls that “sludge”: it’s the emotional baggage we carry in our muscles that has nowhere else to go. She’s not a doctor. But week after week, she encourages participants to sweat, scream and cry out those emotions, in the company of a group of mostly women who are doing the same. “I’ve had classes where people are literally on all fours sobbing,” Toomey says. “But it’s not just my class, it’s happening everywhere. Emotional release in public can feel very uncomfortable. But I think there’s a growing movement of people who want to find a space for it.”

Indeed, the message to women has long been to hide your tears lest you look weak. (Among the tactics: jutting out your jaw. Breathing exercises. Chewing gum. Drinking water.) Yet while crying in the office may remain a feminine faux pas, tears at the gym seem to have lost their stigma — to the extent that there are a bevy of fitness courses that even encourage it.

For Asie Mohtarez, a Brooklyn makeup artist, it began in hot yoga. The music was on, the floor was warm, the instructor was standing over her encouraging her to let go. “I was in child’s pose and I just lost it,” she says. Then, two weeks later, it happened again – this time at Physique 57. The Dirty Dancing soundtrack came on and it was waterworks again. “There’s something about these classes that feel safe,” says the 33-year-old. “I can’t cry at work. I’m not emotionally distraught enough to cry in the shower. I can’t just burst into tears in front of my husband. So, what does that leave you with?”

You could go to therapy – or you could hit the gym. Women are getting teary in SoulCycle, and misty-eyed at Pure Barre. They are letting out wails in yoga and rubbing the shoulder of the weepy woman next to them at CrossFit. “I think people have started to notice that their clients are just showing up to class and just unloading, and so they’re tailoring their classes to create space for this,” says Hayes, who is a pilates instructor by day. “When I take private clients I end up feeling like a therapist for them.”

These fitness instructors aren’t trained in that, of course. But they’ve probably been there.

“I usually just go over to the student after class and quietly ask how they’re feeling,” says Kristin Esposito, a yoga instructor in Los Angeles who sees criers often. “My classes are focused on release so it feels pretty natural.”

Physiologically, it is: Exercise releases endorphins, which interact with serotonin and dopamine, the chemicals that impact mood. In yoga, deep hip openers – like the “pigeon pose” – are meant to stir emotions (yogis believe our emotional baggage lives in our hips).

But many of the newer courses are specifically choreographed to release emotion, too – making it all that much more intense. The lights are dim, candles flicker in the background. It’s not an accident that just as you’re starting to relax, coming down from the adrenaline, you’re blasted with a throaty ballad. Those playlists are meticulously constructed. “I’ve been teaching for almost 20 years, so I’ve basically seen it all: crying, laughing, throwing up, overheating,” says Stacey Griffith, a Soul Cycle instructor. “There are moments in the class that are directly programmed for that reason – but it’s not like we’re trying to get people to cry. We’re giving them the space to step outside of themselves.”

And indeed, that may be necessary. We’re busier, more stressed and more connected than we’ve ever been. Simply finding the time to have that “space” can be near impossible, making the release that these courses offer – packaged neatly into an hour – a kind of fix. “The night before, I can’t wait,” says Hayes of Toomey’s class. “I already know what will be the flood that I’m working through. And sometimes conversations with friends just don’t cut it.”

Getting those emotions out is a good thing – at least in moderation. Emotional tears contain manganese, potassium, and a hormone called prolactin, which help lower cholesterol, control high blood and boost the immune system. Crying reduces stress, and, according to one study, from the University of Minnesota, actually improves the mood of nearly 90 percent of people who do it. “You really do feel lighter after,” says Hayes.

“To me, it’s a sign of being present, it’s a sign of feeling your feelings, of being in the moment,” says Toomey, just after “the class” has ended. Plus, shoulder to shoulder in a hot room, there is almost a sense of communal release. Of high-charged emotional camaraderie. “I so needed this,” a woman tells her on the way out, with a hug. And, of course, with that much sweat, the tears are almost hidden anyway.

Read next: I Taught Fitness and Failed a Fat Test

TIME Mental Health/Psychology

3 Reasons Holding a Grudge is Bad for Your Health

BuzzFoto Celebrity Sightings In New York - September 15, 2014
Taylor Swift on Sept. 15, 2014 in New York City Josiah Kamau—BuzzFoto/Getty Images

Taylor Swift has never been one to hold back on how she feels about her ex-boyfriends, but it’s a song about a grudge with a fellow female artist in her upcoming album that’s getting all the buzz this time around.

Swift told Rolling Stone that her new track, “Bad Blood, delves into her feud with another chart-topping vocalist, though she stopped short of naming names. Several news outlets are reporting that it may be Katy Perry, and USA Today noted that the “Dark Horse” singer posted a cryptic tweet right after the Rolling Stone interview went online. Perry tweeted “Watch out for the Regina George in sheep’s clothing…” making reference to Rachel McAdams’ queen-bee character in the movie “Mean Girls.”

So what could two pop princesses possibly have to argue about? In the interview, Swift said it’s not about a guy but rather that the other artist tried to hire several people away from her (although again, not naming names).

We all have people we don’t particularly like, but is it harmful to harbor those angry feelings? Seth Meyers, PsyD, breaks it down.

They stress you out

“Countless studies have shown that holding grudges and keeping in negative feelings is bad for your mental health, increasing anxiety and frustration,” says Meyers. Case in point: Research published in the journal Psychological Science found that when people were told to nurse a grudge when thinking about wrongdoers, they had stronger negative emotions and greater stress responses (namely, higher heart rate and blood pressure) than those who were instructed to imagine granting forgiveness.

They may hurt your physical health

“You may think a grudge is all in your head, but your physical health can be affected, too,” says Meyers. Researchers from the Medical College of Georgia found that people who said they held grudge for years had an increased risk of multiple health problems including heart disease, high blood pressure, stomach ulcers, back pain, and headaches.

They may not be worth fixing

When you notice that you’re holding on to hostile feelings, ask yourself, “Is this person truly important to me?” If so, you’re going to need to have a frank conversation with them and say why you feel hurt so you can attempt to work through it. But more often than not, the people we hold grudges against aren’t terribly vital in our lives, Meyers says. If this is the case, make an effort to figure out the real source of your frustration—are you really upset that an acquaintance bailed on your birthday party, or are you more bothered by the fact that you and your BFF aren’t as close anymore? Drilling down will help you let those bitter feelings go and focus on what matters.

This article originally appeared on Health.com.

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TIME Family

We Need to Stop Guilting Parents into Cooking Dinner

Happy family dinner images like this may be doing more harm than good for working families Klaus Vedfelt—Getty Images

A new study suggests that the emphasis on family dinners may be more stressful than beneficial.

On the highway of hallowed institutions, there are few so venerated as the family dinner. Maybe reading aloud to your kid, breastfeeding and playing catch come close, but those have a limited lifespan. The family dinner is the church at which all parents, especially moms, are expected to become regular and lifelong worshipers.

Studies have repeatedly shown that kids who eat en famille are less likely to be overweight, more likely to eat healthy foods, have reduced incidence of delinquency and have better grades, mental health and family interactions. The evidence appears to be pretty overwhelming: cook for your kids and eat with them or they’re doomed. You’re consigning them to a life as chubby little lowlifes with a D-average and no self esteem. It’s not much to ask, right?

Problem is, the plurality of kids today are being raised by people who work outside the home. That means somebody, having put in a solid eight or so hours, has to drag his or her weary derriere home and then get his or her Martha Stewart on. Takeout, as all right-thinking parents know, is not at all the same thing as a home-cooked meal. Which is also not the same thing as an organic, locavore, humanely raised, fairtrade, low in fat, salt and everything else except labor meal. A meal which will no doubt be greeted with an aghast face and a whiny demand for plain pasta.

So a new report that suggests the benefits of the home cooked family meal may be outweighed by the pressure of providing said meal should be welcome. Researchers from North Carolina State University interviewed 150 families and found that the whole whip-up-something-for-dinner directive is more like a whip-a-very-overburdened-horse for many families and utterly impossible for others. “Cooking is at times joyful, but it is also filled with time pressures, tradeoffs designed to save money, and the burden of pleasing others,” says the study, which was published in the summer 2104 issue of Contexts.

“The emphasis on home cooking ignores the time pressures, financial constraints, and feeding challenges that shape the family meal. Yet this is the widely promoted standard to which all mothers are held,” the researchers write, adding that it is moralistic, rather elitist and unrealistic. “Intentionally or not, it places the burden of a healthy home-cooked meal on women.” The researchers found that particularly among low income women whose inflexible and inconsistent work schedules prevented them from being able to be home for meals, let along cook them, the scoldy tone of the family dinner table fetishization crowd added unnecessary stress.

My go-to meal strategy is getting my husband to cook, since it involves fire and is therefore a very manly activity. Nevertheless I find myself having to prepare a couple of meals a week. (My second go to strategy, “international toast,” which involved toasting all the leftover crusts of different sorts of bread hanging around the freezer and serving them with eggs, no longer fools my kids, alas.) So you’d think I’d welcome the news that it’s probably better sometimes to skip it. But I don’t. Being both a breadwinner and an international toastmaker can be a drag, but it’s an even bigger to drag to be told that it’s not worth it.

I’ve put a lot of time and effort into making dinner—and making everyone eat the results. It’s stressful to discover that that’s probably too stressful to bother with. So I’m going home to cook dinner. But in act of protest against the forces which hold women to an impossible standard yet again, I’m probably not going make anything very good.

TIME health

5 Ways to Relax In No Time At All

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Ever felt like you just can’t unwind after a demanding week? That’s because stress triggers your body’s fight or flight response: your adrenaline starts pumping, your heart beats faster, and your blood pressure rises, explains Ash Nadkarni, MD, an associate psychiatrist at Brigham & Women’s Hospital. “Long-term overexposure to stress hormones can cause increased risk of health problems such as anxiety, depression, heart disease, weight gain, and memory and concentration problems,” Dr. Nadkarni adds.

That’s not exactly a relaxing thought. So what should you do when calming classics like downward-facing dog and chamomile tea don’t work? Check out these alternative ways to de-stress recommended by experts and recent studies.

Health.com: 12 Signs You May Have an Anxiety Disorder

Wake up early

It may feel counterintuitive to deprive yourself of sleep, but giving yourself an extra 15 to 20 minutes before you head out the door will leave you feeling more refreshed—and less frazzled. “Take time in the morning to center yourself,” says San Francisco-based psychologist Leslie Carr, PsyD. “A lot of people shoot out into their days like a rocket ship and it never gets better from there,”

Consider that caffeine takes 20 minutes to be metabolized for you to feel its effect. During that time, think about your goals for the day or read something inspirational. You might find that your normally crazy day goes a little smoother.

Health.com: 25 Surprising Ways Stress Affects Your Health

Create a soothing space

Research suggests that warm colors like red excite you and cooler, muted colors like blue, green, or grey relax you, says Molly Roberts, MD, president of the American Holistic Medical Association—but surrounding yourself in any color you find soothing can help bring on calm. “The theory behind the use of color therapy is that colors enter the eyes, which then send messages along the nerve pathways to the area of the brain that regulates emotion,” Roberts says. “There are a lot of ways to surround yourself with colors that can ease stress throughout the day.” Her suggestions: at home, paint an accent wall; and at the office, drape a soothing-colored scarf over the back of your chair and change your computer screensaver.

Clean out your junk drawers

When you’re feeling emotionally drained, chances are whipping out your Swiffer is the last thing you want to do. But the truth is, tidying up your home can also tidy up your mind. “Having a mindset of de-cluttering helps to manage stress,” says Lauren Napolitano, PsyD, a psychologist at Bryn Mawr Hospital in Pennsylvania. “Purging unused items gives a sense of order to your physical environment, which helps you feel calmer about your stressors.” She suggests starting with a small project, like your kitchen junk drawer. “Tangible or visible organization leads to emotional organization,” Napolitano says. If you’re ready to take it up a notch, schedule monthly donation pickups with Goodwill to keep yourself in the de-cluttering habit.

Visualize your stressful thoughts

Your coworker just threw you under the bus. Your husband forgot to walk the dog. When it’s that kind of day, try thought diffusion, “a sort of visual mindfulness meditation, a way to sweep out whatever is buzzing around unhelpfully in your head,” says Erin Olivo, PhD, an assistant professor of medical psychology at Columbia University and author of Wise Mind Living: Master Your Emotions, Transform Your Life.
Health.com: The Worst Ways to Deal With Stress
Here’s how it works: Imagine your thoughts are like clouds in the sky, and let them drift by above you. “When you begin to observe your thoughts as mental objects that simply come and go, they become less unpleasant, less threatening and less emotionally powerful,” Olivo says.

Watch cat videos

There’s a reason Buzzfeed links are popping up all over your newsfeed. There’s nothing that will relieve some tension like watching a baby masterfully dancing to Beyonce or a cat riding a Roomba in a shark costume.

“After a stressful day, looking at these funny things actually activates the part of the brain that delivers tranquility and a calm physiological response,” says Rose Hanna, a relationship counselor and professor of psychology and women’s studies at California State University Long Beach. “This decreases anxiety and helps tremendously with reducing stress.”

Health.com: 14 Reasons You’re Always Tired

13 Ways to Beat Stress in 15 Minutes or Less originally appeared on Health.com.

TIME Mental Health/Psychology

5 Weird Ways Stress Can Actually Be Good for You

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We hear over and over again that stress is unhealthy. And all that talk makes us, well, stressed. But getting worked up isn’t always a bad thing, says Richard Shelton, MD, vice chair for research in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Alabama Birmingham; after all, the body’s fight-or-flight response is meant to be protective, not harmful.

It’s only when stress becomes chronic, or when we feel we’re no longer in control of a situation, that it negatively affects our health and wellbeing.

Here, then, are five reasons you should rest easier when it comes to everyday stress—and how a little short-term anxiety can actually benefit your brain and body.

It helps boost brainpower

Low-level stressors stimulate the production of brain chemicals called neurotrophins, and strengthen the connections between neurons in the brain. In fact, this may be the primary mechanism by which exercise (a physical stressor) helps boost productivity and concentration, Dr. Shelton says. Short-term psychological stressors, he adds, can have a similar effect, as well. Plus, animal studies have suggested that the body’s response to stress can temporarily boost memory and learning scores.

Health.com: Best and Worst Ways to Cope With Stress

It can increase immunity—in the short term

“When the body responds to stress, it prepares itself for the possibility of injury or infection,” says Dr. Shelton. “One way it does this is by producing extra interleukins—chemicals that help regulate the immune system—providing at least a temporary defensive boost.” Research in animals support this idea, as well: A 2012 Stanford study found that subjecting lab rats to mild stress produced a “massive mobilization” of several types of immune cells in their bloodstreams.

It can make you more resilient

Learning to deal with stressful situations can make future ones easier to manage, according to a large body of research on the science of resilience. It’s the idea behind Navy SEAL training, Dr. Shelton says—although you can certainly benefit from less extreme experiences, as well. “Repeated exposure to stressful events gives [SEALs] the chance to develop both a physical and psychological sense of control, so when they’re in actually combat they don’t just shut down,” he says.

Health.com: 25 Surprising Ways Stress Affects Your Health

This idea may even hold true at a cellular level: A 2013 University of California San Francisco study found that while chronic stress promotes oxidative damage to our DNA and RNA, moderate levels of perceived daily stress actually seem to protect against it and enhance “psychobiological resilience.”

It motivates you to succeed

Good stress, also known in the scientific community as eustress, may be just the thing you need to get job done at work. “Think about a deadline: It’s staring you in the face, and it’s going to stimulate your behavior to really manage the situation effectively, rapidly, and more productively,” says Dr. Shelton. The key, he says, is viewing stressful situations as a challenge that you can meet, rather than an overwhelming, unpassable roadblock.

Eustress can also help you enter a state of “flow,” a heightened sense of awareness and complete absorption into an activity, according to research from psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. Flow can be achieved in the workplace, in sports, or in a creative endeavor (such as playing a musical instrument), and Csikszentmihalyi argues that it’s driven largely by pressure to succeed.

Health.com: 13 Ways to Beat Stress in 15 Minutes or Less

It can enhance child development

Moms-to-be often worry that their own anxiety will negatively affect their unborn babies—and it can, when it’s unrelenting. But a 2006 Johns Hopkins study found that most children of women who reported mild to moderate stress levels during pregnancy actually showed greater motor and developmental skills by age 2 than those of unstressed mothers. The one exception: the children of women who viewed their pregnancy as more negative than positive had slightly lower attention capacity.

Health.com: 12 Signs You May Have an Anxiety Disorder

This article originally appeared on Health.com.

TIME career

5 Ways to Stay Cool Under Pressure

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Real Simple asked five professionals with (unusually) stressful jobs to share their best secrets for keeping a level head.

1. Before a Stressful Event, Stage a Mental Dress Rehearsal

In surgery, you don’t have the luxury of wondering, What if this doesn’t work? It has to work. That’s why, the night before a big procedure, I run through the entire thing like a movie in my head. I also visualize what I’ll do in the event of major complications—which can make a huge difference. During a recent operation, my team encountered a problem when a hole opened in the vena cava, the largest vein in the body, during the removal of an attached tumor. It’s a terrifying situation: The person could bleed to death in minutes. But I had considered this possibility beforehand. So when the vein ruptured, I knew exactly what to do and quickly restored control. And I’m happy to report, the patient is doing fine.

Thomas Heffernan is a cancer surgeon in Dallas.

(MORE FROM REAL SIMPLE: 5 Types of Friends Everyone Should Have)

2. Address the Most Urgent Need First

During my 21 years as an air-traffic controller, I’ve had a number of unexpected things happen, from a bomb threat to a helicopter pilot telling me that he had lost his engine and needed to land right away. I always remember what a veteran controller once told me: “It’s always going to get crazy—just don’t get flustered by it. Prioritize as you go, and that way you’ll get through the decision-making process.” It’s crucial to discern between a real emergency and something that can wait. For example, a departing flight that cannot get its gear to retract is less critical than an aircraft with smoke in the cockpit. For me, safety trumps efficiency every time.

Cherie Hitt is a supervisory air-traffic controller at the world’s busiest airport, Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International.

3. Listen

You can’t succeed in improv if you go onstage and just start telling jokes. You have to be flexible and pay attention to what people are saying so a scene doesn’t go astray. When you watch talented performers, you can see that they’re committed to the reality that’s being created onstage. In moments when they might not know what to say, they lean on their fellow cast members for more information. Often the group mind is more intelligent than any one given perspective. Yes, even yours.

Matt Walsh is a cofounder of the Upright Citizens Brigade improv sketch-comedy troupe. He lives in Los Angeles.

(MORE FROM REAL SIMPLE: How to Improve Memory)

4. Know When to Take a Breather

Sometimes during a performance, a tiger will do something potentially dangerous that’s not in the routine. When that happens, I offer verbal reassurance (“OK, calm down”), almost like you would to a pet or a toddler. If that doesn’t work, I try offering red meat (really). But if a cat becomes threatening, I leave the ring so she can relax, even if that leads to an awkward pause in the show. The idea of “the show must go on” is important in the circus community, but I’ve learned not to let that mantra dictate my behavior.

Tabayara Maluenda is an exotic-animal trainer with Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus.

5. Block Out Anything Unnecessary

Most of my pressure-filled moments come when big news breaks. On these days, there is so much information to consider that you can’t process it all fast enough to react at the speed of the market. Knowing that I have other people as a backup—to give me a market opinion or help out when I get stuck—helps me make confident, truly informed decisions. When the market starts moving really quickly, I’ll call out, “What’s going on?” My trusted team shouts information at me while I continue to trade and make decisions. Sometimes I close my eyes and breathe—just to clear my head of outside distractions. I know how to decipher my colleagues’ tone of voice and the specific words they use in order to make a lightning-quick decision. This is important, because in my line of work, there are no do-overs.

Doreen Mogavero is the founder and the CEO of—as well as a floor broker for—Mogavero Lee & Co., a boutique brokerage firm in New York City.

This post originally appeared on RealSimple.com.

TIME Innovation

Five Best Ideas of the Day: August 5

1. The grinding stress of life in poverty – not the scarcity of healthy options – leads the poor to unhealthy eating.

By James McWilliams in Pacific Standard

2. Cutting out the middlemen: Loan servicers aggravate the college debt crisis.

By Chris Hicks in the Reuters Great Debate

3. We must treat addiction as a learning disorder.

By Maia Szalavitz in Substance

4. Stop trying to be the “next Silicon Valley.”

By Ross Baird and Rob Lalka in Forbes

5. A first step: The Ugandan Constitutional Court strikes down that country’s vicious anti-gay law, but more fight remains.

By James K. Arinaitwe and Adebisi Alimi from the Aspen New Voices Fellowship

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

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