04/21/2014 03:42 pm ET Updated Apr 21, 2014

Are There Some Benefits To Experiencing Stress?

Stress has a bad reputation -- and rightfully so. Studies have shown that chronic stress can lead to an increased risk for heart problems, exacerbate depression and even shrink the brain. But can a little bit of stress actually be beneficial?

According to Dr. Pamela Peeke, M.D., a senior science advisor for Elements Behavioral Health, a tiny bit of stress can go a long way for our overall functioning. The key, she explained, is to make sure it doesn't reach such high levels where it's disrupting our daily lives.

"The whole point of stress is to be able to help us survive, and that is the fight and flight response," Peeke told HuffPost Live host Caroline Modarressy-Tehrani. "It helps us literally stay alive. ... What stress does is it keeps us on our toes, it keeps us energetic, it keeps us engaged -- so long as ... you don't have a boatload of stress that has become toxic."

A little stress may also benefit the brain. Elizabeth Kirby, a postdoctoral research fellow at Stanford University, said in the segment that brief surges of stress can can also be tied to improved memory function -- as long as the emotion doesn't become a prolonged issue.

"Stress hits your brain all over -- the entire brain pretty much can respond to stress in different ways," she said. "The biggest difference [between good and bad stress] is the duration. A brief stressor -- a bear chasing you down -- that can help your brain function. But if a bear chases you all day, every day, constant activation of the system, constant exposure to stress hormones, that can lead to a lot of health problems."

Check out the clip above for more on the benefits of a little stress and check out the full segment over on HuffPost Live.

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