Stress is not the enemy

I have recently been writing a lot on the topic of stress for our new coach training module on Stress Management. I have poured through textbooks and articles for more information to present that will help us really understand what stress is all about, what causes it, where it comes from and how we react to it – and the damage it can do!  As always, we find that the more we learn, the more we find we need to learn about any topic under the sun. And I discovered something about stress that was – well mind blowing! This is it.

An extensive research project showed that when 30,000 adults were followed for 8 years and two things were measured;

  1. How much stress they experienced; and
  2. Whether they thought that stress was really harmful to their health.

The results showed something amazing. Stress was closely related to higher death rate – BUT ONLY if the people believed that stress was harmful to their health!  If they believed that it wasn’t harmful, they actually had lower death rates than those people who experienced little stress!  

Like I said – mind blowing. And it is because it is all about what goes on in our minds. The simple explanation follows.

The stress response causes increased heart rate, breathing and constricted blood vessels – for those people who felt it was harmful. For those people who saw it as a positive challenge, the blood vessels were not constricted.

A stress hormone called oxytocin is released in times of stress. This hormone leads us to seek out others, to connect with those we love and to support other people who may need our support.  It makes us social!  For a reason. These are old survival adaptations when you think of it.

Oxytocin helps heart cells regenerate and heal from stress-induced damage. It strengthens your heart.

The more we reach out and connect with others, the more oxytocin we produce and  the more we will act with compassion and seek out others.

Stress isn’t killing us. It is the belief that stress can kill us that is!  If we focused more on changing our thinking to believe that stress was a good thing instead of a bad thing and we would reduce the incidence of stress-related illness and premature death!

Stress is not the enemy. Our thoughts about stress are!