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Study Reveals The Upside To Major Stress

A new study finds that going through stressful times can help you learn not to sweat the small stuff.

So Nietzsche may have been right: What doesn't kill you actually does make you stronger. A new study released Wednesday finds that older people who have weathered major stressful events know how not to sweat the small stuff so much.

North Carolina State University researchers wanted to look at how people respond to highly stressful events in comparison to life's daily problems. They conducted a small study of 43 older adults, between the ages of 60 and 96. The subjects were questioned on whether or not they'd experienced a majorly stressful event in the last year -- things like getting married, retirement or losing a loved one. 

They discovered that people who had gone through tough times in the last year were less likely to get bent out of shape over smaller, daily stressors. "Our study tells us that there's no expiration date on the impact of life-changing, stressful events," Shevaun Neupert, the study's co-author said in a release. "And the study tells us that many people actually weather these major stressors and emerge more resilient and less easily influenced by daily stresses."

Over the course of eight days, the researchers found that the people who had experienced a major stress in the last year didn't take bumps in the road nearly as hard as those who hadn't. 

"They were much more stable in response to day-to-day stress," lead author Jennifer Bellingtier said in a release. 

Both groups rated themselves as looking about a decade younger than they were, but on stressful days, members of the high-stress group still felt they looked younger, while members of the low-stress group said they actually looked their age. 

While the study was small in length and scope, researchers say it makes them wonder if there's a relationship between stress and perceptions of aging. 

Severe stress, especially if it's prolonged, can certainly take a toll on your health, such as by increasing your risk for chronic disease or damaging your heart. But there are some benefits to a small amount of daily stress, like increased alertness and improvement in memory. 

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