Is stress bad for you?
If you’re like the majority of people, you’ve been taught that stress is bad for you. It’s Public Enemy #1, affecting your psychological health, making you sick and increasing your risk for coronary heart disease. If stress is a part of your life, we’d like to share a video with you that will revolutionize the way you see stress, and hopefully how you deal with it! You can click on the video below for the full talk on stress or read the rest of the blog for the highlights on how to make stress positive.
Why Stress Is Good For You
Recent advances in psychology are helping us shape how we help others cope with stress and the findings will surprise you! As you will see, you have the power to turn bad stress into positive stress.
In a landmark study (Keller, Litzelman, Wisk et al., 2012), 30,000 people were followed over 8 years while significant life stressors and the risk of dying were evaluated. Unfortunately, the results showed that a high level of stress increased death rates by 43%. But now here’s the good news. This occurred if, and only if, the stress was perceived as harmful! Those people who did not perceive stress as harmful were no more likely to die even if they experienced a high level of stress in their lives. This suggests that ‘just believing’ that stress is bad would rank as the 15th highest cause of death, ahead of HIV, skin cancer or homicide. Amazingly, just by changing your view that ‘stress is bad’ to ‘stress is good’ could prolong your life!
Supporting the above findings is an impactful study (Jamieson, Nock & Mendes, 2012) which demonstrated that showing people to perceive the stress response as good stress (e.g. a racing heart is just pumping more blood and oxygen in your body to help you face a stressor) resulted in relaxed rather than constricted blood vessels. In fact, the blood vessels relaxed and appeared similar to what is seen when people feel joy or courage.
In a final important study (Poulin, Brown, Pillard & Smith, 2013), 1000 adults were followed while stressful life events were tracked. The results showed that each significant stressor increased the rate of dying by 30%. However, there was no ‘stress-increase rate’ in dying if the person was involved in compassionate activities, such as helping someone or participated in charitable groups. Caring actually increased resiliency to stress!
Hopefully, you are now convinced that instead of ‘Getting rid of stress’ we should ‘Get better at stress’!
How To Foster A Positive Stress Response: 5 Easy Tools
We’d like to share five basic ways to help you cultivate the positive attitude that stress and compassion can increase your resiliency to stress and challenging life events.
1) Remember that stress is bad only if you perceive it as harmful.
- You may not have noticed, but just by reading this blog post science has changed how you can view stress as being positive … and may have even helped to save your life in the process!
2) Foster a positive attitude to stress.
- View stress as a positive physiological mechanism that prepares your body to face a challenge, tackle an important problem, increase your resiliency or learn something new.
3) Continually challenge yourself with new goals.
- Aim high, but don’t be hypercritical. Failures are just failures if you see them as such. Learn from your mistakes and get better!
4) Dampen down the effects of stress by catching and Changing Negative Thinking.
- Make sure you are not catastrophizing a situation, jumping to unfounded conclusions or putting yourself down in the face of adversity. See our resource on How To Change Negative Thinking if you need a hand.
5) Seek social support in order to help you manage stress.
- Social support helps to release oxytocin, affectionately called the ‘cuddle hormone’, a stress hormone that promotes bonding between people. Amazingly, this stress hormone also has important physical characteristics, such as helping cells in the heart regenerate if they are damaged after stress.