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Is it just me or is everyone talking about how stressed they are? I know I’ve fallen prey to the complaining or venting about the many stresses of life. As a business owner and parent, stress is becoming a near-constant companion – can you relate? Blame it on the time of year, your workload, your kiddos, or the huge exam you have coming up – to be honest, WE’RE ALL STRESSED. But lately, I’ve been doing some research on the BENEFITS of stress and our view of it. You read that right – stress actually has many benefits associated with it!
Now first, let’s get something straight. By no means am I suggesting to take on more than you can handle, that being constantly stressed is healthy, or trying to downplay your very raw, very real, stresses and worries. I simply want to introduce a little positive outlook on the everyday stresses of life and help you view stress differently than you did before. Although stress is hard, it serves a purpose. And learning to handle it well is a skill worth acquiring. Let me start with some science.
A recent study tracked 30,000 adults in the US for 8 years. They asked two questions – first, how much stress have you experienced in the last year? And second, do you believe that stress is bad for your health? The study found that those who experience a high amount of stress in the last year had a 43% increased chance of dying. But get this – this was only true for those people who believed that stress was harmful to their health. Those who experienced a high amount of stress but didn’t view stress as harmful had no increased risk of dying, in fact, they had the LOWEST risk of dying of everyone in the study – including those with had little to no stress. Isn’t that crazy?
Psychologist Kelly McGonigal suggests, “When you change your mind about stress, you can change your body’s response to stress.” Instead of being nervous because your heart is pounding and your breathing faster, think of it as your body preparing you to handle the situation by giving you more blood and more oxygen. In fact, those who experience stress, but view it as helpful, experience the same physical reaction that the body produces in times of joy or courage.
Your view of stress can quite literally impact your health. And if that’s not enough to convince you to think differently about stress, here’s a list of benefits stress can bring:
Ever been up against a tight deadline? The only option is to perform as quickly, effectively, and productively as possible. Your brain performs at a higher standard, seeking success. The key to handling these situations and turning them into something positive is your perspective. Try to view the situation as a challenge that you can meet and overcome, instead of an overwhelming, unpassable barrier.
Low-level stress causes your body to pump chemicals such as epinephrine, norepinephrine, and cortisol through the body. These chemicals help your body respond positively to stress and increase blood pressure and heart rate.
When your body is stressed, the brain produces neurotrophins and begins strengthening the connections between neurons in your brain. This means that your brainpower is increasing and your memory is getting stronger. This process is also an explanation to why physical exercise (physical stress) helps boost concentration and productivity.
Moderate stress helps your heart pump blood to the rest of your body and even protects your body from infection. When your body senses stresses, it prepares itself for a possible injury or infection. One way your body does this is by producing extra interleukins (the chemicals that regulate the immune system). This produces a temporary defensive boost. Pretty cool huh?
What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, right? (s/o to ma girl Kelly) Handling stressful situations helps your mind and body prepare for future stress. By viewing a stressful situation as helpful instead of harmful, you help your body function easier and more efficiently. As with anything, practice makes perfect. As we learn to handle stress, we can handle greater amounts.
I hope this helps you view stress in a more positive light and recognize the benefits of stress. I know that as I’ve learned more about stress, it’s increased my capacity to manage it. Although I’m not perfect, and will continue to sneak a spoonful of ice cream in moments of stress (thank you @bluebell), understanding the benefits of stress has given me a sense of empowerment to handle whatever comes my way. I hope you feel the same!
Have any tips on managing stress? Any findings about the benefits of stress? What are your thoughts on the subject? Comment below! I’d love to hear! 🙂
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