Can something beneficial come out of stress?
New research says, “yes!” With the right point of view, we can use stress to serve us and not let it become a weight we carry around.
Our body responds to stress based on how we think it’ll affect us. If we have a negative mindset around stress, of course stress is going to become something that drags us down – or even debilitates us. But if we come at stress with a more positive approach, it can be easier to handle, not only emotionally, but also physically.
Stress perceived as ‘good’ can even improve your resilience and well-being!
RESEARCH REVEALS NEW FACTS ABOUT STRESS
In a stunning reversal of the effects of stress on your mind and body, Stanford University psychologist Kelly McGonigal asks us to consider seriously the “upside of stress;” or, the potential benefits of good stress versus bad stress.
In her entertaining and eye-opening TEDTalk presentation, How to Make Stress Your Friend, McGonigal urges us to consider a more positive approach to stressful situations, saying,
“The old understanding, of stress as a unhelpful relic of our animal instincts, is being replaced by the understanding that stress actually makes us socially smart — it’s what allows us to be fully human.”
One of her most startling revelations is that more people die from the belief that stress is bad for them than die from stress itself!
HOW YOU THINK OF STRESS DETERMINES YOUR RESPONSE
When we consciously adjust how we think about stress, it has a profound effect on how our bodies will respond. Instead of viewing the sweaty palms, racing heart, and faster breathing as a negative response think of these physical elements as your body gearing up to face the incoming challenge, head-on and with absolute purpose; readying itself for victory!
As McGonigal explains, participants in a Harvard study on stress were taught to rethink their stress response as being helpful. That the pounding heart is preparing you for action. If you’re breathing faster, it’s no problem, it’s getting more oxygen to your brain. And participants who learned to view the stress response as helpful for their performance were less stressed out, less anxious, and more confident. There were even noticeable differences in their physical reactions.
Just about everyone with a pulse is going to react in a stressful situation with a natural response from their body; mainly the effect on our cardiovascular system with an increased heart rate. When we have a negative outlook towards stress, the negative outlook causes a constriction in your blood vessels that can lead to serious health issues. But with a positive outlook towards stress, as discovered in the Harvard study, the constriction doesn’t occur and allows your racing heart to deliver the blood flow throughout your body as you prepare to move forward in facing the challenge ahead of you.
TURNING GOOD STRESS INTO RESILIENCE
noun — The capacity to recover quickly from difficulties; toughness.
Our bodies have what we need to rise to challenges and provides us with the necessary tools. McGonigal even mentions the similarities of stress responses between joy and courage.
The ability to meet and overcome challenging, stressful circumstances in a healthy and productive way – to thrive when others fail. This is the very essence of resilience.
Next time you’re feeling stressed, see if taking a different mindset about the situation creates a different outcome. Wouldn’t it be better to have an empowering and positive result from situations generally considered stressful? Try it and start your journey of utilizing ‘good stress’ as a way to move forward on your journey.