Can Stress Actually be Good for You?
If you’re living, and you’re an adult woman, you’ve experienced it.
Hopefully you’ve not experienced it in excess, but odds are good that it has reared its ugly head in your life more than a time or two.
It’s just part of life. We all know it. We all hate it. But, hey, that’s life. Right?
We’ve all heard for years – many years, most likely – that stress is bad for us.
It has been blamed for everything from a cold to cardiovascular disease.
And, no doubt, if you’re under a constant amount of stress, it will certainly have an effect on your both your physical and mental health.
But, what if there was a way for stress to have a positive effect on you instead of a negative one? Don’t believe it? Read on…
Kelly McGonigal, in her TED Talk “How to Make Stress Your Friend”, discusses this very thing.
She, too, told people for years that stress is bad, you have to avoid stress, etc. But these days she says something very different.
She sights an eight year study on the association of health and mortality which was conducted by researchers at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health to determine if the perception that stress affects health would indeed affect health.
Study subjects were monitored to understand their stress levels and were asked whether they thought that stress was bad for their health.
As a part of the study, death records were reviewed and compared to examine the instances of a number of people that subsequently died and the effect stress may have played.
The results were incredible.
Among the people that died, were all folks who thought that stress is bad for you.
The ones who believed that stress didn’t have a negative effect on them, were no more likely to die prematurely than anyone else, even though they had similar stress levels.
As Kelly says, “182,000 Americans died prematurely – not from stress, but from the belief that stress is bad for you.” Wow.
She goes on to say that if we view the effects of stressful situations – a pounding heart, sweating, etc. as our bodies energizing and preparing us to meet the challenge ahead and not as something harmful, our bodies’ responses change internally to that of something similar to experiencing sudden joy or excitement.
Similar symptoms, but totally different, non-damaging effects.
It seems that how we think about stress has a profound effect on the way our bodies respond to it.
Who knew? If you’re like me, this is a bombshell.
Stress is unavoidable, but if it’s possible that we can change how we respond to it, it’s definitely worth a shot, right?
So, how do we change all the years of thinking about stress as something that’s inherently harmful to us, and reprogram our brains to perceive stress as non-threatening?
It may not happen overnight, but you can do this. Try these steps and see the difference it can make:
Prepare Your Mind Beforehand
The moment a crisis happens is not the time to try to talk yourself into a different state of mind.
You just can’t do it.
But if you’ve been practicing how to do this for a while, it will come more naturally.
Make a regular habit of reconsidering stress.
Remind yourself that it’s okay to feel things, experience your emotions, because your body is trying to help you cope when you need it most.
The saying goes that it takes 30 days to develop a habit, so start now.
Goodness knows you’ll probably have some stress before that, but the sooner you begin, the sooner you can meet that stress with a better frame of mind.
Create a Network of Caring Friends
Kelly noted that when we are under stress, our brains release the hormone Oxytocin, which is a natural defense against stress.
It makes us want to reach out to others, which in turn, releases more Oxytocin, which helps us feel better.
Having a good friend or two that you can turn to when the stress hits can make a huge difference in how it will affect you.
You can establish a “Stress Network” of a few close friends that you can talk with, rant to, cry on or whatever you need to get through the moment.
In the end, your body will thank you.
Do Something Good for Someone Else
It’s easy to become entirely wrapped up in ourselves when stress hits.
That’s understandable, but no so good for you.
Dwelling on your problems will only make them seem bigger and worse than they may be.
As difficult as it may be, reach out to someone else in need.
If you are upset, find someone else you know that is hurting or stressed or in need (probably won’t have to look far), and do something for them.
It can be as simple as a phone call, text or card, or if you are able, have lunch together or run errands for them.
It will increase that Oxytocin for both of you and help lessen those negative effects. Plus, it just feels great to help people. Win-win!
As Kelly McGonigal stated, “How you think about stress matters.”
And, boy, does it.
From now on, don’t fear stress, use it.
Employ it to become better, stronger and afford yourself the ability to make a difference in your life or for someone else.
Make it a good thing and see the good come back to you.
Was this article helpful to you? If so, please let me know in the comments. And if you know someone who may benefit from the information in this post, please share it with them. Thanks!