Can stress be good for you? How you can make it your friend.

I watched a fascinating talk by health psychologist Kelly McGonigal; she shares a fascinating idea: that the harmful effects of stress may be a consequence of our perception that it is bad for our health. Agreeing with my earlier article on stress that “That’s not to say a challenge is a bad thing, we need to progress and grow, we do this by dealing with stressful situations and coming out the other side. However, what may be stressful to one person may minimally affect another–and vice versa. The reason: it is not the event which is stressful, but how we view and respond to the event that counts. “

Kelly McGonigal presents scientific research in her presentation that proves an up side to stress:

“Can changing how you think about stress make you healthier? Here the science says yes,” says McGonigal. “Your heart might be pounding, you may be breathing faster… but what if you viewed them as signs that your body was energized and it’s preparing you to meet this challenge.”

The main points from the scientific research mentioned in the video are:

  • Stress may actually be correlated with longevity—if a person does not view it as a negative
  • A possible antidote to negative effects of stress: giving to others
  • Moderate stress can lead to cell growth in the brain’s learning centers
  • Stress can summon helper hormones to vulnerable areas
  • Stress can induce both good and bad habits
  • A stress-is-enhancing mindset may have lasting effects

How to deal with stress in a positive way

1. Nothing and no one can “make” you feel anything. You are responsible for the reaction you have to any given situation, of you can’t change anything, accept it for what it is. Accepting doesn’t mean to give up, by accepting what can’t be changed and finding a way to cop with it is a great stress reducer.

“God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things that I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”

2. Exchange attitude for gratitude. The science indicates above that as possible antidote to stress is giving to others, that makes us feel good about ourselves. Sometimes you can find gratitude in the smallest things. You can be thankful for life, health, strength, friends, family, nature, etc. Focusing on gratitude can definitely change your attitude.

3. Look at the big picture. Evaluate your stressful situation from a “big picture” point of view. Ask yourself “how important is this?” and “will this matter in the long run?” If the answer is no, it’s likely not worth your time and energy.

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