What if I told you that you aren’t stressed out because of stress?
That indeed there are other people who have the exact same amount of stress in their lives, if not more, who don’t feel stressed out at all.
You’d probably be a little defensive or indignant even. After all it sounds absurd, right? Of course stress is why you are stressed-out, the word is right there, within the word.
But it’s true. Stress isn’t why you are stressed out.
You are why you are stressed out.
More specifically, your reaction to the stressors of life are why you are stressed out.
That’s because how you think about stress matters.
Kelly McGonigal, a well known social psychologist and stress resilience advocate, warned people for the better part of ten years that stress was bad for them. Until, she discovered a series of new studies that proved it wasn’t stress, but rather your response to stress that stresses you out.
“When you change your mind about stress, you can change your body’s response to stress.”
I’ll admit, it pretty much sucks to realize you’re at the center of your discomfort. After all it’s so much easier to blame it on a sucky boss, a heavy workload or a long commute. And the nature of living is inherently stressful, so conventional wisdom that stress is bad for your well-being makes sense.
Life will always be stressful. Realizing that it doesn’t have to stress you out is liberating.
Imagine if your boss, your workload and your commute no longer had the power to stress you out.
You’d feel pretty powerful right? You’d probably also feel a lot more open to life’s possibilities. Not to mention you’d likely add years to your life.
Here are a few great reasons to consider changing your reaction to work and life stressors….
Stress can be your friend.
Participants in one of the studies, McGonigal mentions in her TED talk, who learned to view the stress response as helpful to their performance, were not only less stressed out. They were also less anxious and more confident than those who didn’t believe the response to be helpful.
Stress can be joyful.
And on a physical level their response to stress changed. While their heart was still pounding, their blood vessels remained relaxed. Which meant they WERE more relaxed, and that their experience actually mimicked feelings of joy and courage rather than stress.
Stress creates connection.
When you are stressed out, your biological response to stress is poking you to seek support. Sharing your challenge, and caring for others, actually boosts your ability to be resilient in the face of stress.
As an advocate for mindfulness and stress resiliency, I was initially a bit resistant to McGonigal’s insights, even though I knew it to be true. So over the last few months I’ve played with it in my own life, and literally watched my attitude toward turbulence shift, which is why I know how impactful this is!
Stress can help you rise to the occasion and meet a challenge, rather than making it difficult to perform.
Stress can help you feel uplifted and brave rather than worn out, beat down and defeated.
Stress doesn’t have to stress you out, intact you are naturally resilient to stress if you if you allow yourself to connect with and support and be supported by others.
So, I’d like to invite you to change your reaction, to trust yourself (body, mind and spirit) to handle what life throws at you, and remember you don’t have to do this all alone.
Want to hear more about this? Watch Kelly’s Ted Talk.