We have been hearing for years that stress is bad for us. It’s been made a public health enemy and named the cause of many illnesses. But what if it’s not bad for us? What if stress prepares our body to deal with the challenge and the negative effect is only the consequence of our perception that it will harm us?
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Health psychologist Kelly McGonigal suggests that stress is only bad if you believe that it harms you. She further mentions that people get sick not because stress but because of belief that it’s bad for them. Difficult to believe? Numerous studies confirm that how you think about stress can change your health and even save your life.
For example the study at Harvard University showed that when people were asked to look at the signs of stress such as pounding heart as positive sign (preparing to action) and breathing more often as a way of delivering more oxygen to the brain their physical response changed and they their blood vessels stayed relaxed which was good for their heart. “When you change your mind about stress you can change your body’s response.” You can become better at stressful situations. You can think: “this is my body helping me rise to this challenge and then your body believes you and your stress response becomes healthier” says McGonigal.
Another benefit of stress is that it makes you social. According to McGonigal Oxytocin (neurohormone) fine tunes your brains social instincts and enhances your empathy. When oxytocin is released it motivates you to seek support. It also helps you to notice those who need your support. Main role of Oxytocin is to protect cardiovascular system from the effects of stress. It helps your heart cells regenerate and it strengthens your heart. When you reach out to others your stress response becomes healthier and it helps you to recover.
So next time when you are facing a challenge change your attitude about stress and reach out for support.