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Embracing Stress?

Don’t be afraid of stress. It can be good for you! Apparently it all depends of your perspective.

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Written by Kerry Duncan

It is almost impossible not to feel stressed these days unless you live in the wilderness or a cave (even then I am sure there will be something to feel stressed about like spiders, bats and rats!). The great news is that stress can be good for you! Thank goodness I say. I recently watched a TED Talk by health Psychologist Kelly McGonigal about stress and have since purchased her book ‘The Upside of Stress’[1]

Basically if you think stress is bad for you then it is. Your belief about stress has an impact on your health. McGonigal refers to a study in 1998 involving thirty thousand adults. They were asked about stress in the past year and then asked if they believed stress is harmful to their health. Eight years later the researchers searched public records to determine who had died from the survey group. Those with higher levels of stress were more likely to die but only those who thought stress was harmful to their health. People who did not view stress as harmful had the lowest risk of death, even more so than those reporting very little stress! An amazing insight. It highlights the power of thought on our bodies. What we believe can have a profound impact on our health.

I really like this quote in the book ‘Seeing the upside of stress is not about deciding whether stress is either good or all bad. It’s about how choosing to see the good in stress can help you meet the challenges in your life’.[2]

So how do you make stress your friend? A simple three step process is recommended to help you shift your mindset:

  • Acknowledge stress. Notice how it affects your body.
  • Welcome stress –What is behind it and does it matter. What insight can you gain?
  • Make use of the energy that stress gives you. Can you use it to help you achieve your goals?

In the ‘Final reflections’ chapter in The Upside of Stress McGonigal refers to ways to combat the negative side of stress. Any down side of stress can be offset by:

  • Giving back to your community
  • Having a sense of purpose
  • Seeing the benefit of your struggles
  • Seeing yourself as capable
  • Using it to help you perform
  • Becoming altruistic and helping others.

A great book. So in summary don’t be afraid of stress. It can be good for you! It all depends of your perspective. Stress can help you to focus and perform and to build resilience. It can motivate, provide clarity and energy. Having a sense of purpose and helping others in need can help to offset stress! Note to self – get out there an start doing some meaningful charity work!

[1] Kely McGonical PhD The Upside of Stress. Why Stress is good for you , and How to get good at it.

[2] Kely McGonical PhD The Upside of Stress. Why Stress is good for you , and How to get good at it. Introduction xxiii