6.6 Embrace Some Adversity and Avoid Chronic Stress

There is some indirect evidence that some adversity can make you stronger. Researchers such as Mark Seery, Alison Holman, and Roxanne Cohan Silver found that a certain level of exposure to adverse life events resulted in better mental health and well-being outcomes.Donovan (2010). They found that a history of lifetime adversity, in contrast to low and high levels of adversity, was related to lower global distress, lower levels of functional impairment, less post-traumatic stress, and high levels of satisfaction. Yes, some levels of adversity can make us feel better.

Chronic stress, however, can have a negative influence on health, the immune system, cognitive performance, learning, memory, and brain development in general.Lupien, McEwen, Gunnar, and Heim (2009). When the brain detects some sort of threat, it releases hormones that are used to cope with the threat and the body goes into a fight-or-flight response. Extended or chronic exposure to these hormones and the fight-or-flight arousal state can significantly impair health and cognitive functions and, by extension, the creative process. The bottom line is that a little adversity might be ok; but if the adversity leads to chronic stress, then it will damage the individual.