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Do you see the subtext here?
The idea that you SHOULDN’T be stressed.
I have a question, though, who told you stress is bad for you?
We hear it all the time, all around us.
The American Psychological Association says that stress is a major health problem in the U.S. and it doesn’t end there. We are literally told that if we don’t manage this feeling inside us that we call stress we will end up dying young!
Consider the following quote:
“It isn’t stress that kills us, it is our reaction to it.” - Hans Selye
Those words were spoken by the man who identified what we refer to as stress!
In a more recent turn of events, in 2013, Kelly McGonigal gave a TED talk that turned stress on its head. In her words…
”Can changing how you think about stress make you healthier? And here the science says yes. When you change your mind about stress, you can change your body’s response to stress.” - Kelly McGonigal
There are even more recent studies that show the key difference in how stressors turn into chronic negative stress has less to do with situations and more to do with outlook and how we perceive things.
So stress is really a just a thought??
If we understand this, it is a game changer because we know, from Cognitive Behavior Therapy models that what we THINK about what we are FEELING affects our decision on what to DO. In terms of stress, if we THINK that the FEELINGS associated with stress is bad then we will DO things that negatively affect us. This includes just staying in that state of distress so that what is happening in our body never changes. (Chronic Stress)
Sit with that for a minute…what indicates stress to you? What do you FEEL in your body?
When a stressful event happens (positive or negative) our body releases a flood of hormones including adrenaline, cortisol and oxytocin. These hormones can increase our blood pressure, make our heart pound, dump sugars in our blood stream, feel butterflies in our stomach and create a fuzzy feeling in our brain.
Sounds terrible for our health right??
But consider these same hormones under THIS light.
Improve cognitive function - moderate stress strengthens the connections between the neurons in our brain
Increases our immunity - While chronic stress may lower immune function, moderate stress actually increases it
Stress can enhance child development - according to a study out of Johns Hopkins University, when pregnant women are exposed to normal amounts of mild-moderate stress, the child has more advanced early development skills by age 2
Make you become a stronger person - without stress we live in the comfort zone, stress pushes us to be driven, motivated and achieve our goals, dreams and vision
Oxytocin even has the power to regulate our emotional responses and pro-social behaviors including trust, empathy, positive memories, bonding cues and positive communication.
So, knowing this, what if that FEELING of stress made us THINK something like:
“This feeling is motivating me to be my best self.”
“This feeling is temporary and is making me more resilient.”
“I feel my body getting stronger.”
“This is my signal to slow down and connect with my support system.”
It isn’t a perfect science, but our goal shouldn’t be to be perfectly non-stressed. Our goal should be to prevent chronic distress in our bodies. And we can do this by framing these feelings MOST of the time and not beating ourselves up for the times we struggle to frame the feeling of stress.
Bottom line is that we were designed to have stressful events occur and use the hormones that flood our bloodstream to do things to make problems and situations better. The problem isn’t that we encounter stress, it is that we frame it poorly and live in that perception!
(like homework, but for your life)
Take a minute to list out your personal indicators of stressful situations and create a short mantra-like sentence that you can say to yourself when those indicators come up. Write/type it out and put it up in areas that you are typically in when you are stressed out.
Do you want a personal life coach? Someone to walk you through this and things like it?
Schedule your free consultation with Gretchen and see if we would be a good fit. No strings attached!