There are a lot of people out there who keep telling us that stress is bad and can seriously affect our health. People invest a lot of resources in attempts to avoid or relieve stress. But what if we told you that you don’t really need to stress about stress!?
It turns out that stress can actually be your friend and help you take on challenges. The best part of stress is that it signals you about any danger coming towards you – it’s your spider Sense. The best way to manage it is to let it help you.
Know what stress is
Stress is not the bad guy. Stress has helped us survive adverse situations since the time of the caveman. It is the very reason for our existence. Essentially, stress is our body’s response to sudden change which prepares us to face what’s coming. The autonomic nervous system controls unconscious bodily functions such as breathing, heartbeat and digestion.
When we face a threat or danger, this system evokes a fight or flight response. There is a release of hormones like adrenaline, cortisol and nor-epinephrine; chemicals that make you alert and heighten your senses. You start taking in more oxygen and pumping more blood, while your body mobilizes fat and sugar to get you fast energy. So basically, stress does to you what spinach does to Popeye.
Believe. It’s good for you
Trust is the foundation of a good friendship. You have to believe that stress is good for you to reap its benefits. We’re not kidding; health psychologist Kelly McGonigal on TED talk reveals how she had been wrongly telling people for 10 years that stress is bad. McGonigal shared some surprising research which found that people who didn’t think stress was bad were hardly affected by it. Not only were they less anxious and more confident, but there was a physical change as well. When a person feels stressed, blood vessels constrict, which could cause serious heart issues if prolonged. Contrastingly, people who believed stress was good for them didn’t have blood vessel tension and were found to have a cardiovascular response similar to that in people who experience joy.
Observe your stress reaction
Now that you know how your body will react, start noticing what you do when stress comes by. In a stressful situation, we aren’t offered much control. Thus, part of our stress reaction is an attempt towards feeling in control. It’s a common reaction we feel when we get a haircut or to clean the house. Doing things like these keeps us focused and maintains our ability to move through times of uncertainty. You need to identify any destructive stress reactions in case you develop them. Many people tend to stop eating in times of stress, which can cause weakness and dizziness. Drinking alcohol is another common destructive reaction. But when you drink, sleep does not give your body the rest it needs. Notice if you have any such destructive reactions and try to replace them with healthier options.
Lock in the fight mode
The kind of threats our ancestors faced were quite different from the ones we face today. While they had to deal with beasts, we have to deal with bosses. They had the option of flight but we can’t run away from our deadlines. Knowing that, it’s better to always be in fight mode, and that’s not as hard as it sounds.
Practicing relaxation and breathing exercises can calm you down when you’re in trouble. Get some fresh air and clear your mind so you can tackle the problem head on. Now that stress is your friend, focus on what needs to be done, and you’ll find that your body has everything it needs in order to do so.