The Health of Stress

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We all have stress in our lives, and we all tend to manage it differently to both good and bad results.  stressLike most people, when I’m feeling particularly stressed, it seems my overall health tends to decline regardless of how well I’m taking care of myself.  Which is most likely due to me not wanting to actually deal with the stress that I’m feeling at the time.

For instance, I’ve been feeling stressed lately about work because I’m not in a position I would like to be, and because of that, how I’m struggling somewhat financially.  This has caused me to suffer from stress headaches all week leading to insomnia, resulting in me missing a few days of work.. which in turn makes me stress about going back to work.

It’s a vicious circle that I’m desperate to break free from.

But what if the stress we’re feeling could actually be beneficial to our lives, as well as our health?  And not just beneficial to ourselves, but to those around us?

Apparently, it’s not stress that’s making us sicker, it’s stressing out about stress being stressful that’s actually the problem.

That’s the main message given by health psychologist Kelly McGoinigal in a talk she gave for Ted.com back in June 2013 on how to make stress our friend (clip is at bottom of page).

Stress. It makes your heart pound, your breathing quicken and your forehead sweat. But while stress has been made into a public health enemy, new research suggests that stress may only be bad for you if you believe that to be the case. Psychologist Kelly McGonigal urges us to see stress as a positive, and introduces us to an unsung mechanism for stress reduction: reaching out to others.

It’s definitely a different way of looking on how we all deal with stress in our lives, as most of us (myself included) tend to shut down and agonize over how we’re going to get through this particular bad patch in our lives, instead of looking for a way through it.

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But it’s also about making sure when you’re feeling particularly stressed that you’re reaching out to those around you to talk about what’s making you feel stressed.  We’ve all heard the stories of people who’ve been super stressed out and because they haven’t wanted to ‘bother’ anyone else with their problems, they’ve gotten sick or had heart problems (ie: a heart attack).

By ensuring you are reaching out to others to discuss the problems you’re going through, it allows you to relieve a lot of that stress you’re feeling.  But as well, by reaching out and being there for someone who’s feeling stressed, it also allows you help reduce stress in your own lives.

stress_weightgainIt seems like such a simple concept when you think on it, but yet not a lot of us implement it into our own lives.

Instead we all talk about planning some holiday or taking some time off work to ‘unwind’, or even focusing so much on getting to the weekend so they can ‘de-stress’.  Basically, we’re all so busy looking for better ways to relax that we’re not focusing on relieving the stress itself.

As Ms McGonigal says in her talk, “When you change your mind about stress, you can change your body’s response to stress.”

So take a few moments to watch the below clip and see how looking at stress differently could change your own lives, and hopefully help improve your health in the long run.

I know I’ll be trying my best to look at things differently from now on.

Note: For anyone interested in the transcripts of this talk, they can be found HERE.

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