What If Stress Is Actually Good For You?

stressI don’t know about you, but I have always been taught to decrease my stress. I have been told repeatedly that stress is bad for me. Stress negatively affects my health; it hurts my heart; it can even shorten my life.

Right? We all know it. Stress makes your heart pound, your breathing quicken and your forehead sweat.

Well….what if stress doesn’t kill me? What if it is my RESPONSE to stress that could kill me? What if stress isn’t the problem at all and it is the way I think about stress that causes the problem?

Let’s play the “What If” game for a minute and consider stress from another angle.
What if stress isn’t the enemy?
What if we see stress as helpful?
As a motivator?
An energy that gets us moving and changing in positive ways?
An energy that improves immune function?

Well, that certainly puts a different spin on the subject, doesn’t it? I can feel you pulling back and can see your skeptical face. Do you think I’d bring up an idea this radical without some back up? Are you kidding? Reading research studies is my porn.

While stress has been made into a public health enemy, new research suggests that stress may only be bad for you if you     BELIEVE
that to be the case.belief

A series of Yale studies show that it is not the amount of stress that a person feels that positively or negatively affects the person, it is the BELIEF that person has about stress. As Crum, Salovey, and Achor discovered, people have different beliefs about stress.

They found that people have one of two mind sets about stress. For example, some people — arguably most people — believe that stress is a bad thing. They agreed with statements like “The effects of stress are negative and should be avoided,” and the researchers called this the stress-is-debilitating mindset. While on the other hand, those who instead agreed that “Experiencing stress facilitates my learning and growth” had what they called a stress-is-enhancing mindset.

In their studies, Crum and colleagues began by identifying stress mindsets among a group of nearly 400 employees of an international financial institution. They found that those employees who had stress-is-enhancing mindsets (compared to stress-is-debilitating) reported having better health, greater life satisfaction, and superior work performance.

Then they took the study a step further. A subset of the 400 employees in the study were shown a series of three-minute videos over the course of the following week, illustrating either the enhancing or debilitating effects of stress on health, performance, and personal growth. Those in the stress-is-enhancing group (i.e., the lucky ones) reported significant increases in both well-being and work performance.

Yet another study showed that stress-is-enhancing believers were more likely to use productive strategies, like seeking out feedback on a stress-inducing task. They were also more likely to show “optimal” levels of cortisol activity. It turns out that both too much and too little cortisol released in response to a stressor can have negative physiological consequences. But with the stress-is-enhancing mindset, cortisol release is — like Baby Bear’s porridge — just right.

What makes the difference? Belief is the key. Another stress study tracked 30,000 adults in the United States for eight years, and they started by asking people, “How much stress have you experienced in the last year?” They also asked, “Do you believe that stress is harmful for your health?”

And then they used public death records to find out who died.

What did they find? People who experienced a lot of stress in the previous year had a 43% increased risk of dying. However, that was only true for the people who also believed that stress is harmful for your health. People who experienced a lot of stress, but did not view stress as harmful, were no more likely to die. In fact, they had the lowest risk of dying of anyone in the study, including people who had relatively little stress.

The researchers estimated that over the eight years they were tracking deaths, 182,000 Americans died prematurely, not from stress, but from the BELIEF that stress is bad for you.

That is over 20,000 deaths a year.

Now, if that estimate is correct, that would make “believing stress is bad for you” the 15th largest cause of death in the United States last year, killing more people than skin cancer, HIV/AIDS and homicide.

Not to be left out, Harvard also conducted a study about the effects of stress. They had participants walk into a room where they had to give an impromptu speech about their greatest weakness to a panel of very disapproving expert evaluators. Then they had to count backwards from 595 by 7’s with people rushing them and telling them what a terrible job they were doing while they were attempting to count out loud.

Wow! Wouldn’t your palms be sweating or your heart racing by now? In a typical stress response, your heart rate goes up, and your blood vessels constrict. This is one of the reasons that chronic stress is sometimes associated with cardiovascular disease.

But in the study, when participants viewed their stress response as helpful, their blood vessels stayed relaxed. Relaxed? Can you do that consciously? Can you freak out and keep you blood vessels from changing size? I don’t know about you, but I am not that evolved. But here’s the point- the reason this research is so valuable is because none of these people kept their vessels relaxed consciously. It was a physiological change because they BELIEVED that the stress they were experiencing was not dangerous or harmful in any way. Their hearts were still pounding, but this is a much healthier cardiovascular profile and, quite frankly, this is a much easier way to live.

relaxSo, what if stress can be good for us? What if stress makes our brains work better? What if our increased heart rates bring more oxygen to our organs? What if stress makes our immune systems stronger?

Changing our thoughts from a negative state to a more positive state helps us prepare for higher states of consciousness. The basic frequencies of the body, cells, emotions, Bach flowers, colors and chakras are the foundation in clearing personal issues. As these layers of pain and hardness lift, we are able to move into transpersonal states of consciousness that will bring a new vibrational octave to ourselves and the planet.

Changing from a negative mental state to a positive mental state allows us to stop tearing down old patterns, and instead begin the joyful experience of:

• creating new pathways to follow

• new artistic endeavors to explore

• new life tasks to undertake

Changing a belief system takes effort, desire and commitment. However, as we head into the holidays for the next several months, I, for one, would enjoy experiencing stress in a positive way that enhances my life and allows me to experience my friends, family, and holiday traffic at a much higher vibration.

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