You probably have heard how stress can cause havoc to your health by increasing your risk of cardiovascular disease and reducing your immune system.
The mind-body connection began with Harvard Medical School physiologist Walter Cannon who was a pioneer in discovering the emotional connection of pain, fear, anger, and hunger with the sympathetic nervous system. Your body, when sensing danger, immediately prepares for a fight-or-flight (or freeze) response by increasing your heart rate and blood pressure among other physiological reactions.
In the event of a life-threatening attack, these physiological responses are critical to your survival. However, your daily road rage or excessive irritability at various life events, people, or even at yourself, can easily lead to a self-induced state of chronic stress causing all sorts of ailments.
Most of you probably have probably heard this already. But here’s some new ( to me ) research that completely changed the way I now experience stress in my life.
What if you could override your physiological fight-or-flight response by developing a stress-hardy mindset? What if changing the way you think about stress could actually make you healthier?
Several studies have found that the way people view stress has a greater impact on personal health and longevity than those who live a low-stress lifestyle.
When faced with a challenging or fearful situation, instead of viewing it as stressful, reposition it as challenging. Shifting your narrative from a fight or flight to an “excite and delight”, can temper your physiological response. Your blood pressure will rise, but your blood vessels will not constrict.
How to Pivot Your Mental Thinking Around Stress
1. Recognize what your body is doing and see it as a positive
The next time you find your heart pounding because of a giant error you made in front of 1000s of people or you are about to perform in front of a live audience reframe your thinking. Tell yourself that your body is giving you a boost of extra energy to respond and perform.
2. Give yourself credit for important risks you might be taking
Nervousness is often a result of doing something that matters to you or it could be a signal that you are stretching out of your comfort zone. When you find yourself feeling nervous ask yourself “why?” Redirect yourself away from your stressful emotions and acknowledge the steps you are taking to either stand up for what matters to you. Give yourself a pat on the back for your willingness to grow and learn.
3. Focus on today
Today it can be easy to feel overwhelmed. Having too much to do can trigger a host of emotional and physical repercussions. Often thinking about your future or holding on to the past can be the largest source of stress in your life. Consider breaking your goals into smaller bite-size tasks. Learn to let go, say no, or ask for help. Focus on helping someone else in a random act of kindness which will take the focus off yourself and onto someone else.
4. Remember you have a choice
Harnessing the upside of stress requires a mindset reset. Often people wear stress and being “so busy” as a medal of honor. Don’t buy into it. And don’t feel guilty if your life is great. You deserve, along with everyone else, to have a great life. That doesn’t mean it would be challenging or without hurdles, but how you view those setbacks is critical to your overall health and wellbeing.
Reclaim your life, your mind, and your body. Your narrative is a powerful tool to reshape your life. Use stress in the same way. Reframe your thinking that allows your nervousness or fear to be guideposts and support mechanisms rather than wrecking on your life.
“Every day may not be good…
but there’s something good in every day”
― Alice Morse Earle
The Essentials of Managing Stress by Brian Luke Seaward
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