Repeat After Me: Stress is My Friend
By way of background, many people have described me as high-strung, nervous, jumpy, edgy, energetic, stressed, peppy, blah, blah, BLAH. In fact, what they observed was a high level of anxiety, which showed up in my posture, tone of voice, and movements. Why so anxious? Well, it depends on who you ask; my bevy of professionals would tell you stress caused my anxiety. I would tell you life caused it, but WHATEVER. I needed to change my ways, or I would drop dead of a heart attack, or something; like that’s really helping me feel less anxious! I just became MORE anxious about being anxious!
So, imagine my giddy reaction when I heard McGonigal cite these findings from a 2012 University of Wisconsin research study,
The researchers estimated that over eight years of tracking deaths, 182,000 deaths happened prematurely not from stress, but from the belief that stress is bad for you. [Emphasis added]
McGonigal then posed this simple question,
What if you changed the way you reacted to your body’s typical stress response?
Instead of viewing stress responses like an accelerating heart rate and sweaty palms as a bad thing, what if you viewed them as a good thing? They help prepare you by sharpening your mind and focusing on the task at hand. Well! As it happened, the Harvard University Department of Psychology conducted a study on that exact question. They discovered the participants who viewed their stress response as helpful presented an accelerated heart rate, BUT no blood vessel constriction around the heart. (The constricted vessels are the bad guys.)
Instead, it was a response scientists usually see when someone is experiencing joy or courage.
McGonigal advises us to get better at responding to our stress response. Don’t think, Oh My God, I’mgonnadie! Think, This is my body rising to a challenge it was built to handle.
Viola! Stress is your friend!
Watch the complete Ted Talk here: