DON'T GET RID OF STRESS, GET BETTER AT IT!
What is this word that we are all stressed out about?
Why does everybody suggest not to worry when we face a difficulty?
Is it really that dangerous or have we given it too much importance than it actually requires?
Experts say, telling someone not to be stressed is more stressful than the actual stressor itself. Basically, we have turned stress into our ENEMY, and when has an enemy ever done any good to the world?
Let's see why is it better to keep it as your friend!
A study conducted in The United States tracked 30,000 adults for 8 years, and they started by asking people, "How much stress have you experienced in the last year?", they also asked, "Do you believe that stress is harmful to your health?" And later used the public death record to find out who died.
Okaaaay, some bad news first!
The finding states that people who experienced a lot of stress in the previous year had a 43% increased risk of dying. BUT that is only true for the people who believed that stress is harmful to their health.
People who experienced a lot of stress but did not view it as harmful weren't likely to die due to stress. In fact, they had the lowest risk of dying than anyone in the study, including the people who had relatively little stress but thought stress is harmful.
The researchers estimated a huge number of premature deaths over the eight years (around 20,000 per year) which was not because of stress but from the belief that stress is bad for you. Now, if that estimate is correct that would make 'believing stress is bad for you' the fifteenth largest cause of death, killing more people than skin cancer, HIV/AIDS, and homicide.
So, does this say changing your mind about stress can make you healthier?
The science says YES!
When you change your mind about stress, you can change your body's response to stress. When faced with a stressor, you might be breaking out into a sweat or your heart starts pounding, maybe you start breathing faster. Normally, we interpret these physical changes as anxiety and that you are not coping very well with the pressure BUT what if we viewed them as signs that your body was energized and was preparing you to stand the challenge?
If you change your thinking to that, let's see what WONDERS it can bring to you!
So, the typical stress response when the heart rate goes up and your blood vessels constrict (upper profile) is one of the reasons that chronic stress is associated with cardiovascular disease. But when you view your stress response as helpful, your blood vessels stay relaxed (lower profile) which is a much healthier cardiovascular profile and is the same in the moment of joy and courage.
Do you see the difference now? Interesting, eh?
Here is another unappreciated thing about stress.
STRESS MAKES YOU SOCIAL.
Heard about Oxytocin? The cuddle hormone?
Yes, it is released when you hug someone but there is more than that to it.
Oxytocin is a neuro-hormone, it fine-tunes your brain's social instincts. It primes you to do things that strengthen close relationships. Oxytocin makes you crave physical contact with your friends and family. It enhances your empathy. It even makes you more willing to help and support the people you care about.
Some people even suggested snorting oxytocin to become more compassionate and caring. ;p
Wondering how any of this is related to stress?
This happy hormone is also a stress hormone. Your pituitary gland pumps this out as a part of the stress response. And when it is realized as a stress response it motivates you to seek support. Your biological stress response is nudging you to tell someone how you feel, instead of bottling it up. When life is difficult, it wants you to be surrounded by people who care about you. It also protects your body by safeguarding the cardiovascular system from the effects of stress. It's a natural anti-inflammatory. It helps your blood vessels stay relaxed during stress. And it has an amazing function of strengthening the heart by repairing it from any damage done by stress.
Wanna know the COOLEST thing about all of this?
These physical benefits are enhanced by social contact and social support. So when you reach out to others during stress, either to seek support or to offer some help, you release more of this hormone, your stress response becomes healthier and you recover faster from stress.
Isn't it amazing that your stress response has an in-built mechanism for stress resilience and that mechanism is HUMAN CONNECTION?
Health psychologist Kelly McGonigal said, "The harmful effects of stress on your health are not inevitable. How you think and how you act can transform your experience of stress! When you choose to view your health response as helpful, you create the biology of courage. And when you choose to connect with others under stress, you can create resilience."
So don't get rid of your stress, get better at stress!
- Krishna Chandak
(Your Growth Story)