…or why how you think about stress matters.
I just hang up with a stressed friend (or so she said in response to my asking how she was doing). Like most people, when I used to hear the word “stress” I immediately thought of heart palpitations, stomach ache, shortness of breath, loss of control, and most importantly, cause of disease. It all changed when during a binge Youtube TED talk marathon (I love TED talks), I came across psychologist Kelly McGonigal explaining how to make stress your friend.
For years we’ve been hearing that stress makes us sick; that it increases our risk of illness, from the common cold, to cardiovascular disease, to cancer; and that it should be avoided at all cost. But what if we viewed stress as our body’s mere response to a situation, giving us energy and propelling us to meet a challenge, McGonigal says. “That pounding heart is preparing you for action. If you’re breathing faster, it’s no problem, it’s for getting more oxygen to your brain”, she argues.
Her TED talk and book (The upside of stress) include study results showing that the belief that stress is bad for you is actually worse than the effects of stress itself. Changing the way you view stress changes the effect stress has on your body. “The latest science reveals that stress can make you smarter, stronger and more successful. It helps you learn and grow. It can even inspire courage and compassion” (quoting her book).
Wait a minute – I’m a health coach who claims that I can help people deal with stress, and now I’m saying that stress isn’t bad for you? Am I not shooting myself in the foot? Actually, the two are not mutually exclusive: coaching can help you view stress differently, but it can also help you incorporate an active relaxation practice, in whichever form, in your everyday life. Coaching has a lot to do with perception, as well as with using your top strengths in difficult situations such as stressful ones. Have I sparked your interest? Contact me or leave a comment below!
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