Just a thought: if I were to tell you that what you choose to believe about stress could save your life would you believe me? By changing the way youthink about stress, you not only counteract any negative impact on your health that stress causes, but enhance your level of happiness, your ability to connect with others, and improve your life expectancy. ‘Really?” I hear you cry. Not only that but we have an inbuilt mechanism when we experience stress that releases chemicals in to our body that boost brain growth so we learn from the experience.
A massive research study conducted in the US a few years ago demonstrated that people who had experienced a lot of stress in the previous year had a 43% increase in their risk of dying. The study then went on to reveal that if you didn’t believe that stress was harmful you were actually less likely than the norm to die.
Kelly McGonical is a health psychologist, and for years like so many of us was spreading the word that stress is harmful and damages our health. In her brilliantTED talk she talks about the complete paradigm shift this research brought about for her. If we change the way we think about stress this alters the body’s response. If you think about it the outward signs of stress and excitement are pretty similar: the heart beats faster, you breathe more rapidly. Think some more and you could start to see that if you are feeling stressed about a situation and you experience those symptoms they could be a good thing: your heart beats faster so you are more ready to react, your breathing is more rapid so you are getting more blood to your brain. How you think about stress matters. It is your body helping you to rise to the challenge.
Here are three things you might try:
- Next time you feel stressed think about how this heightened state might be helpful. Perhaps it is the adrenaline that will help you complete the task faster, or the alertness that comes from breathing rapidly that can help you focus more clearly.
- Try thinking of it as a helpful signal that you might want to switch your thoughts. Often when we feel anxious to the point of overwhelm it is because we are thinking too far in to the future. By bringing your thoughts back to the present and focusing on one simple thing you can do that will move things forward the overwhelm paralysis will lift like a fog.
- Imagine the possibilities! If your mind is that powerful that it can alter your body’s response at a physical level just through what you believe about stress, imagine how you can positively affect your overall health by thinking positively. For inspiration check out Dr. Bali and Dr. Christiane Northrup.