The NEW Science of Stress: It Could Save Your Life

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.

In the featured TED Talk below, 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.

Think back to the last time you felt really stressed. What kind of physical symptoms did you experience?

Pounding heart. Faster breathing. The sensation of blood rushing through your body and brain. Butterflies in your stomach. A narrowing of focus. Sweat.

Then you focus your attention on the physical sensation of stress you’re experiencing, and you completely lose it. You mind goes blank, and anxiety sets in.

We’ve been trained to view stress as bad – dangerous even. And it scares us.

But let’s look at these symptoms differently for a moment…

Your pounding heart and racing pulse? It’s delivering nutrient-rich blood to your muscles, organs, and other tissues.

The tunnel vision? All the better to help you focus on your target or goal.

Faster breathing? More oxygen for your brain.

Anxiety? It’s to ensure caution, and leave nothing to chance.

Even our sweat serves a vital purpose – We sweat under stress in order to alert others nearby – by odor – to the danger so that we can mount a unified response.

This changes things a bit, doesn’t it?

The stress response – whether in the case of truly life-threatening danger, or anxiety over an uncomfortable situation – is the same, though a different level of intensity. Because stress is a PREPAREDNESS TOOL. And though it may sometimes be hastily exerted by the body and misinterpreted by our brain, it serves a powerful and positive purpose.

Stress exists to help us function at a higher level – plain and simple. It heightens our senses and increases our attention to detail. And when we learn to reinterpret our physiological experience of stress, we enable ourselves to reduce, repurpose and even resolve the negative affects stress can have on our health.

Psychologist Kelly McGonigal points this out in this month’s featured TED Talk, “How to Make Stress Your Friend,” and reveals the recent finding that, although high amounts of stress increase the risk of dying, it does so only in individuals who perceive stress to be harmful. In people who don’t see stress as a health threat, stress does not appear to increase mortality.

It turns out that stressing over stress is what makes stress so stressful!

So, clearly reappraisal – or changing how you think about stress – is the best thing you can do to positively alter your stress response, and increase your overall wellbeing.

The bottom line?

Stress will kill you.

But only if you let it. So don’t. 🙂

Does this change anything for you? How are you going to change your conscious perception of stress going forward?

Let’s hear all about it in the comment section!

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