Connect with us

Life

How Stress Can Actually Improve the Quality of Your Life

Avatar

Published

on

stress
Image Credit: Twenty20.com

Naturally, those of us who experience less stress in our lives are more likely to succeed. So, it’s important that you learn how to reduce your daily level of stress, right? Maybe not. Recent research has shown the common wisdom about stress might be dangerously inaccurate. Psychologists tracked the health of 30,000 adults in the United States over an 8-year period. Participants were asked two important questions:

1.    “How much stress have you experienced in the last year?”
2.    “Do you believe stress is harmful to your health?”

The researchers found that people who experienced high levels of stress were 43% more likely to die in the study’s 8-year period. Doesn’t that prove stress is in fact bad for your health? Not exactly, stress was only harmful to the people who believed stress was harmful.

Those people who experienced high amounts of stress but didn’t believe it was harmful to their health were less likely to die than all other groups in the study. They were even less likely to die than the people who experienced low levels of stress (but believed stress is harmful.)

Put simply, people who believe that stress is not harmful live longer lives than those who believe it is. This study showed that it might not be stress that damages our health, but our beliefs about stress that damages our health.

“The greatest mistake you can make in life is to be continually fearing you will make one.” – Elbert Hubbard

Breakthroughs In Stress Research

At first, this might be hard to believe. Kelly McGonigal elegantly explains this phenomenon in The Upside of Stress, “Stress mindsets are powerful because they affect not just how you think but also how you act. When you view stress as harmful, it is something to be avoided. Feeling stressed becomes a signal to try to escape or reduce the stress. And indeed, people who endorse a stress-is-harmful mindset are more likely to say that they cope with stress by trying to avoid it.”

People who believe stress is negative are more likely to avoid it by smoking, binge-eating, or watching too much TV. Afterwards, their physical health pays the price. Fortunately, research has shown that your beliefs about stress can be changed – and changing them has powerful benefits.

A study by Jeremy Jameson and colleagues had people endure a grueling social stress test. Participants were asked to give a 5-minute impromptu speech about their personal weaknesses to a panel of judges. To make this situation even more stressful, the judges were instructed to give negative feedback to the participant giving the speech. This study wasn’t just about sadistically putting people through social pressure, it was testing whether a mindset intervention could change how people react to stress.

Before giving the impromptu speech, participants were shown one of two videos:

  • The first video opened with the message, “Most people think that stress is negative… but research shows that stress is even more debilitating than you expect.”
  • The second video opened with, “Most people think that stress is negative… but actually research shows that it is enhancing.”

Participants who were shown the video that gave examples of how stress can be enhancing were less stressed out during the interview, felt more confident while speaking, and gave better interviews (as rated both by themselves and the judges). Even more impressively, although normally a stress response causes a person’s blood vessels to constrict, the blood vessels of participants who saw the pro-stress video remained relaxed.

“Much of the stress that people feel doesn’t come from having too much to do. It comes from not finishing what they’ve started.” – David Allen

The Power Of Your Stress Mindset

So, a 3-minute video was able to change the way people responded to a stressful situation, not just psychologically, but physiologically. When we think stress is something we must avoid, stress becomes a negative feedback loop. We experience stress, we think it’s a bad thing, and then our stress makes us even more stressed (and on and on).

But, when we think stress is just a natural part of life, or even a good thing, we are able to embrace it instead of being controlled by it. This not only allows us to perform better in stressful situations, it also enables us to make healthier decisions (because we won’t attempt to avoid stress with unhealthy coping behaviors).

How do you handle stress? Comment below!

Image courtesy of Twenty20.com

Avery Hayden’s struggle with anxiety and panic disorder lead him to become deeply interested in psychology and self-improvement. He read hundreds of books about anxiety, stress, and finding happiness and found that true personal transformation is possible.Now he writes about the most powerful tools for change he has discovered. You can find more of his articles on Medium: https://medium.com/@aghayden

Advertisement
3 Comments

3 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Chas Reuss

    Jun 13, 2019 at 7:16 pm

    Youre so cool! I dont suppose Ive read anything like this before. So nice to find somebody with some original thoughts on this subject. realy thank you for starting this up. this website is something that is needed on the web, someone with a little originality. useful job for bringing something new to the internet!

  2. Avatar

    Carolyn

    May 28, 2019 at 2:54 am

    Great article. There’s definitely a sweet spot when it comes to stress. A little bit like Goldilocks actually – not too much, not too little. It needs to be just right. And, as you’ve mentioned, mindset also needs to be in alignment as well.

  3. Avatar

    Alessia

    Jul 17, 2018 at 6:42 pm

    I appreciated your article, the reference to studies on stress that is more harmful if you think it in a negative sense. It must be said that stress, within certain limits, also has a positive value. The flow, which is connected to the discourse on stress, is a very profitable working condition.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Life

6 Personal Growth Challenges to Transform Your Life

Avatar

Published

on

Image Credit: Unsplash

If you are looking to improve yourself, it is up to you to make changes that will change your everyday life. Putting in hard work is necessary if you wish to grow yourself and pave the way to a more successful future. This might be the sign you were waiting for in order to start challenging yourself in order to improve certain areas in your life. The personal growth challenges you choose to follow can be bigger or smaller. Regardless of that, they are always a great place to start and can help you discover a lot of things about yourself. If you need help finding the right challenges to get started, here are some ideas you can use. (more…)

Continue Reading

Life

7 Empowering Life Lessons from Warren Buffett

Avatar

Published

on

Image Credit: WireImage

Warren Buffett, also known as the “Oracle of Omaha,” is one of the greatest investors of our time. He’s my personal favorite, not only because he’s a great investor but also because he has led an exemplary life. Buffett, who turns 91 this year, has a net worth of more than $85 billion. Buffett has taught us many lessons from his speeches and his life. (more…)

Continue Reading

Life

7 Characteristics of the Most Confident People in the World

Avatar

Published

on

Image Credit: Unsplash

Do you consider yourself one of the people with little confidence in themselves? Did life and situations make you lose faith in yourself? Do you still carry on your back the criticism of others or their bad treatment of you? If your answer is yes, then you came to the right place. (more…)

Continue Reading

Life

4 Ways to Get Mentally and Emotionally Fit

Avatar

Published

on

Image Credit: Unsplash

For many years, mental health went overlooked. All over the world, countless people silently struggled with conditions like depression, anxiety, and even suicidal thoughts. In many cases feeling thoroughly alone and not knowing where to turn. Fortunately, a lot of progress has been made in recent years, with increasing levels of focus placed on mental health care and more ways for people to deal with these difficult emotions, sensations, and challenges when they arrive. (more…)

Continue Reading

Trending