In a stunning reversal on 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 see stress as a positive influence in our lives, 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!
Resilience is a Result of Using Good Stress
Remarkably, how your body responds to stress changes based on your mindset. While your heart may pound, your breathing quickens, and your palms may sweat when stressed, these may not be signs of anxiety but, instead, signs that your body is becoming energized, preparing you to meet this new challenge.
As McGonigal explains, participants in a Harvard study on stress were taught to rethink their stress response as helpful. That 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, more confident. Even their physical stress response changed.
If you’re like most people, your heart rate kicks up in stressful situations. It also constricts, reducing blood flow just when your body is trying to pump more through your system. Needless to say, this can lead to cardiovascular problems, and often does. However, for those in the Harvard study who viewed their stress response as a good thing, their blood vessels stayed relaxed, allowing the increased heart rate to do its job effectively, preparing their bodies for action.
How You Think of Stress Determines Your Response
In other words, for these folks, their body was providing them with the tools they needed to rise to the challenge of a stressful situation. In fact, she describes such a response as similar to the way your body responds to joy and courage.
This is the very essence of resilience; the ability to meet and overcome challenging, stressful circumstances in a healthy and productive way – to thrive when others fail.
Instead of “demonizing” stress as we have for generations, this research tells us that with the right mindset, you can make good stress work for you, helping you to meet the challenges of daily living.
Have questions about how Wealth Attraction coaching can help you develop a healthy mindset? Send me a note if you’re interested in exploring the opportunity.