Changing the Way We Think About Stress

Okay, gang. It’s time we talk about that little nagging friend who always has a tendency to pop up in our lives: Stress! You know…that heart-pounding, head-racing, body-sweating thing we all love to hate. As much as I’d love to tell you that it’s possible to live a stress-free life, I would be lying to you, and I’m sorry, friends. I just can’t do that.

There are going to be instances—for ALL of us—that are stressful. But it’s not the stress itself that is the issue, it’s how we react to and handle that stress and what we do to try and reduce or resolve it that has the biggest effect on our minds and bodies and our overall health and happiness!

Unresolved, persistant stress has the ability to wreak havoc on our bodies and overall system. You’ve probably heard time and time again that stress has the ability to make you sick, cause damage to your heart, and even make you more likely to catch the common cold.

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There was a really amazing TED talk our team had the honor of listening to that covered this very topic of stress, and I loved it so much that I wanted to share the main points with you! Since we’ve ALL committed this month to not only taking care of ourselves a little bit better, but to also filling up our knowledge banks with as much information as possible, I felt this was a really important topic to include!

We’re going to get a little scientific for a second, but trust me, guys. This is so fascinating and so beneficial to your health! Let me break this down for you…

A study was completed in the United States that involved 30,000 participants. These 30,000 men and women were all asked these same two things:

  1. Rate your level of stress over the last year.
  2. Do you think stress is bad for your health?

Now I want you to stop for a moment and answer both of those for yourself. Think back to the experiences you’ve had this last year, and then rate your stress level on a scale from 0-10. Once you’ve got that number in mind, think for a moment about if you believe that stress is bad for your health. Don’t go off of what I said earlier, but what you believe to be true about stress and the effects it has on our minds and bodies.

Ready for the blow-your-mind part?! Researchers continued to collect data from these 30,000 participants, and they found that a whopping 43% of the reportedly high-stress group had a higher risk of death. BUT…and this the important part…this statistic was ONLY true for the group that thought stress was harmful!

The group that reported having a “lot of stress” but did NOT view it as bad for their health had a shockingly LOWER risk of death. Think about the math, guys, even if it was never your favorite subject! This study suggests that those people who believe that stress is damaging to their health may actually have a HIGHER risk of death than those who do not.

This SHOCKED me! Think about it…. Our minds are these beautiful machines. I’m sure you’ve heard before that our thoughts affect our personal universe, and maybe the people who believe that are really on to something here!

Isn’t it an astounding idea that our minds are really that powerful? That we have an incredible opportunity to have an impact on our reality just by what we believe?

Furthermore, another fascinating nugget from this study was the physiological response of the test group that was taught to view stress as their body’s way of rising to a challenge. They were urged to see it not as anxiety, but instead, as preparation for what lies ahead. They were taught to believe that their increased heart rate and all the other symptoms they were experiencing were just their body’s way of helping them be better equipped for whatever was about to come their way.

Simply put, this group was urged to consider stress as a positive response to stimulus. What was discovered was that instead of having typical blood vessel constriction and increased heart rate that is normal when experiencing stress, this group had blood vessels that looked much like they would during times of courage and joy! How great would that be? Instead of feeling HORRIBLE over stressful situations, how about feeling better prepared, confident, and ready to face any challenge that comes your way?! Sign me up!

Rethinking how we normally feel about something as common as stress might be enough to make that physical alteration that would mean the difference between a life expectancy in the 50s versus a life expectancy in the 90s and beyond. All by changing our perception.

This supports an amazing concept: Your body can believe what you tell it! Think how this can help in our every day lives?! Not only when it comes to stress, but when it comes to your entire health journey. Making those promises to yourself AND telling yourself you CAN do hard things. Our minds have the ability to do SO MUCH. We just have to believe, my friends.

I want to take this one step further, and then I promise you we can put our lab coats away for the day.

Researchers also looked at a smaller test group of 1,000 participants who were asked similar questions as the larger group:

  1. How much stress have you experienced in the last year?
  2. How much time have you spent helping friends, neighbors, or people in your community?

Findings indicated that there was a 30% increase in the risk of death for every major stressful experience, BUT this was NOT true for those who spent time connecting with others!

One of the biggest and best things we could be doing for our well-being just might be embracing our human connection. Reaching out and opening yourself up to serving those around you or reaching out for support when you are feeling stressed might be the major key factors to effective stress management.

These are powerful concepts, and I love that they opened up our minds to not only changing the way we might view stress, but to how we can view almost any situation also.

I challenge each of you to make a conscious effort this month to try and change the way you think about stress, as well as about whatever is going on in your life. If you’re dealing with obstacles or negative self-talk, redirect those thoughts, but also reach out and connect with someone else!

Maybe it’s responding to someone’s comment here on the blog or social media with a positive reflection, or maybe it’s connecting with someone else in our Transform Community who may be going through a similar journey as yours. You’ll be doing something good not only for yourself, but hopefully brightening someone else’s day as well!

xo,

Heidi

Related reading:

Stressed Out?
Heidi’s Daily Hugs || 12 Ways to Treat Yourself without Breaking Your Diet!
The Art of Saying NO! My 5 Tips for Saying “Nope” in Business + Life
Aggression Therapy + Self Defense = MMA || My Newest Fitness Obsession
Tip of the Day: Write it Out!


2 Comments

  1. Sandra E Virk - September 26, 2018

    I’m suffering daily with stress, anxiety, panic attacks and headaches. I’ve been in bed for the last 10yrs. I weight 266lbs right now. I was able to go from 315 to 215 but fell off again and I’m back to bed rest. I’m miserable and would give anything to change before I end up living my 600lb life. Goes to show you how badly stress can affect a person.

    • Team Powell - September 27, 2018

      Hi Sandra: I’m so, so sorry to hear about all you’ve been going through, and I cannot imagine how difficult this all has been and is for you. We wish you all the best! *Hugs*

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