Make your stress work for you

Lesotho Times - - Health -

FROM wreck­ing your work­outs to sab­o­tag­ing your sleep, stress can wreak havoc on your life. But it can also be en­er­giz­ing, mo­ti­vat­ing and life chang­ing — if you em­brace it. That’s the the­ory be­hind a new book called The Up­side of Stress: Why Stress Is Good for You and How to Get Good At It, by Kelly Mcgoni­gal, PHD, a lec­turer at Stan­ford Univer­sity.

“I made a ca­reer out of telling peo­ple stress is the en­emy and they need to re­duce it,” says Mcgoni­gal.

“But that all changed when she came across an in­trigu­ing study pub­lished in 2012. It shows that, yes, stress in­creased par­tic­i­pants’ mor­tal­ity. But there was one ma­jor catch: Stress only in­creased mor­tal­ity when peo­ple be­lieved it was harm­ful to their health.

“When peo­ple had a lot of stress in their lives and didn’t hold that view, they seemed to be pro­tected against mor­tal­ity,” says Mcgoni­gal.

If you sprint away from stress­ful sit­u­a­tions like you’re gun­ning for a medal, you prob­a­bly see stress as a threat. “When you view stress as in­her­ently harm­ful, you shy away from things that are dif­fi­cult and mean­ing­ful, whether that’s re­pair­ing a re­la­tion­ship or seek­ing out a pro­mo­tion,” says Mcgoni­gal.

If, on the other hand, you welcome stress, you’ll see it as an op­por­tu­nity to learn and grow. Even bet­ter: view­ing stres­sors in a pos­i­tive light may help you feel like you can over­come it. “Stud­ies show that peo­ple who think of stress this way are more likely to feel like they have the re­sources to han­dle it, such as self-ef­fi­cacy and self-con­fi­dence,” says Mcgoni­gal.

How Do You Get Good at Stress? If you’re think­ing, “OK, this is all well and good, but how do I ac­tu­ally change my mind about stress?” we don’t blame you. The cul­tural think­ing about stress is so deeply en­grained that it can be hard to shake loose, but Mcgoni­gal of­fers a few tips:

Re­peat This Phrase: ‘I’m Ex­cited’ When you start stress­ing, call on a mo­ti­vat­ing mantra. “Tell your­self you’re ex­cited,” says Mcgoni­gal. In one study cited by Mcgoni­gal, re­searchers put par­tic­i­pants through stress­ful sit­u­a­tions, like mock job in­ter­views, and eval­u­ated their bod­ies’ re­sponses. Be­fore the in­ter­views, each par­tic­i­pant watched one of two videos about stress. One pre­sented stress as an “en­hanc­ing” chance to learn and grow, and as some­thing that could be help­ful to job per­for­mance. The other video claimed that stress was more de­bil­i­tat­ing to both health and work-re­lated per­for­mance than peo­ple thought. The pur­pose: To an­a­lyze how the videos af­fected par­tic­i­pants’ lev­els of cor­ti­sol and de­hy­droepiandros­terone (DHEA), two stress hor­mones.

Nei­ther video af­fected lev­els of cor­ti­sol, which is as­so­ci­ated with things like im­paired im­mune func­tion and de­pres­sion when it’s present in higher lev­els, says Mcgoni­gal. It was only when they did the mock in­ter­views that cor­ti­sol lev­els went up. But when par­tic­i­pants watched the video that pre­sented stress as a pos­i­tive thing, their brains re­leased more DHEA, which can help re­duce your risk of anx­i­ety, de­pres­sion, and al­le­vi­ate whole host of other things that higher lev­els of cor­ti­sol (aka: stress) can bring about. Yup, pos­i­tiv­ity may lit­er­ally change the way stress hor­mones re­act in your brain.

Keep Your Eye on the Prize When you’re feel­ing over­whelmed, think­ing of the long-term ben­e­fits of your sit­u­a­tion might help. “You can deal with stress­ful life ex­pe­ri­ences with strength from past ones,” says Mcgoni­gal. One study out of Hope Col­lege

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