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For so long stress has been something we see as bad. We know that the side affects of stress can cause real life threatening problems, and too much stress could eventually lead to a heart attack, and even death. Why is that? Why do we picture stress as such a bad thing to have in our life? Maybe it is because everyone I have ever talked to about stress told me that is was bad, and I shouldn’t stress. But stress is inevitable. What am I supposed to do then?
Kelly McGonigal, who is a psychologist who decided to answer this question. She found a study with thirty thousand adults. Among these adults they split them into two groups. The first group was told the normal things about stress. The second group however was told that stress is a mechanism your body has to fight whatever it is you are dealing with. It taught them to use however the body is responding to push you past. What they found was amazing. It turns out that only if you think stress is bad will it have harmful effects on your body. If you think about it in a positive manner your body will learn to respond to it in a positive manner. (McGonigal, 2013). In fact, when thinking like this, it will increase the bodies levels of DHEA which will counter the affect of cortisol, the stress hormone. This means if you think that stress is "enhancing" your body will respond in that manner. (Productivity Game, 2016).
Right this is all fine and dandy, but how do we change our whole mindset? Ian Robertson wrote an article opening with a man who was nervous for a presentation, which is much like any of us. Our body makes us think it is life or death, and our fight or flight response is initiated. But this character, instead of responding by trying to calm ourselves down, he says “I’m excited” and everything changed. (Robertson, 2017). The same symptoms or stress are symptoms of excitement so why not start there? When you feel this level of stress and anxiety, instead of telling yourself to calm down, use those symptoms by telling yourself you are excited.
Ok, but now you ask how to handle stress when it is something you are most definitely not excited about. I know when I get caught in this negative stress I immediately respond like it is life or death. This generally comes from daily hassles or life that are most definitely not life threatening, but my body tells me they are. Dr. Simone Ravicz gives us a couple tools to help with this stress that we feel everyday that isn’t positive. First try challenging. Don’t see your stress as a wall, rather a hurdle to jump over. Face it head-first and push through it. The second is positive thinking. Fight your negative stress response with "rational, evidence-based" positive facts. (Ravicz, N/A).
These few steps will hopefully help you, and has definitely helped me battle my stress. But it will be a continuous battle.
McGonigal, Kelly (2013) How to Make Stress your Friend. Ted Talks. Video retrieved from: https://www.ted.com/talks/kelly_mcgonigal_how_to_make_stress_your_friend/up-next
Productivity Game (May 3, 2016) Stress enhances performance: THE UPSIDE OF STRESS by Kelly McGonigal. Video retrieved from https://www.ted.com/talks/kelly_mcgonigal_how_to_make_stress_your_friend
Robertson, Ian (January 3, 2017). How Freaking Out Can Help you Succeed, According to Science. Retrieved from Time.com/4592069/stress-stronger-science/
Ravicz, Simone Ph.D. (N/A) The Secret Upside to Stress. Retrieved from https://www.happify.com/hd/secret-upside-to-stress/