We all know overwork leads to stress and stress leads to unproductivity, right? Well, actually, no. We know that stress can increase your chance of health issues from everything from raising your chances of getting the cold all the way to life threatening conditions. However, there is research to tell us that stress is not our enemy... our mindset is. Stress can actually play an important role in our success. But here is the catch, stress only helps if we choose to see stress as a resource.
If you're wondering if I know what the hell I am talking about, I don't blame you. For most our lives we are pumped with the knowledge that stress is harmful to our health. I will be one of the first to raise my hand and say I have experienced the harm stress can do first hand. I spent the first 6 months of 2021 battling with Bell's Palsy, a stress-induced paralysis that impacts the facial nerves. In addition to half my face drooping and becoming unusable, I also suffered extreme sensitively to sound, pinched nerves in my neck and shoulder and migraines... for those who have experienced issues with nerves, you know this was not a fun 6 months.
So if I have experienced severe illness from stress, why am I here preaching stress can be positive?
First of all, I came across a TEDTalk discussing a study on stress. The study found participants who experienced high levels of stress over the past year had a 40% higher chance of... well... death. But here comes the interesting part, only the participants who believed this high level of stress was bad suffered these harmful effects on their health. Those who did not view stress as negative had the lowest risk of death even compared to those who said they did not suffer high amounts of stress. So... stress is not the enemy... the belief that stress is the bad is the enemy. It is our mindset, from no fault of our own but years of being told so, that stress is harmful that is really causing the damage.
So can changing your mindset improve your health?
Yes! By changing the way you think about stress, you can control how your body responds to stress. Rather than viewing the physical response your body exhibits during stress as negative, view the stress response as a resource. Your racing heart is preparing your body for the challenge, your increased breathing is rising your oxygen levels... it has been found viewing these responses actually changes the body's response. Instead of constricting your blood vessels to your heart as it does when you view your stress as negative... a positive outlook changes your blood vessels response, reducing the amount of constriction.
The take away, change the way you view stress, change your mindset and you'll be guaranteeing a healthier you.
If you're interested in listening to the TEDTalk, the link is here https://www.ted.com/talks/kelly_mcgonigal_how_to_make_stress_your_friend?language=en#t-424629