WHY I ❤️ STRESS AND YOU SHOULD TOO
What if I told you that changing ONE belief in conventional wisdom will dramatically improve your physical health, mental wellbeing, relationships, and maybe even save your life?
What if changing this one belief eliminated persistent overwhelm, frustration, anxiety, self-doubt, and feeling like you’re perpetually struggling to meet the demands of your life?
What if changing this belief helped you feel more balanced, grounded, calm, and self-compassionate so that you can build the life you want with courage and confidence.
HERE’S THE BELIEF
It’s your belief about stress being bad for you. This ONE thing makes an enormous difference in how you experience demanding circumstances and could ultimately be a life or death belief.
I know this might seem too simple and like I’m waaay overstating here. I understand why you think that—sometimes being smart equals being skeptical. The truth is, I love that about you.
But please reserve judgment until you see the science that backs this because doesn’t even the possibility of trading stress and struggling for courage and confidence intrigue you? Umm, yeah!
HERE’S THE SCIENCE
The University of Wisconsin conducted a study of 30K American adults consisting of 2 questions:
- How much stress do you experience in your daily life?
- Do you believe stress is bad for your health?
For the next 8 years, the researchers tracked the participants to see who died, and those who experienced high levels of stress had a 43% increased rate of premature death.
But only if they believed stress was bad for their health! And guess who had the lowest death rates?
Not those with moderate or even low levels of stress, like you might think, but those with high levels of daily stress who simply did NOT believe that stress was bad for their health.
And as if that wasn’t surprising enough, there’s more—researchers at Harvard University conducted an experiment to determine why lots of stress is deadly for some and not others.
The participant’s hearts were monitored during a social stress test specifically designed to induce the body’s stress response which increases the heart rate.
Those who believed stress is unhealthy showed a constriction of the arteries which is why stress is associated with heart attacks and cardiovascular disease. (The #1 cause of death in women!)
But the study also revealed something extraordinary.
HERE’S THE TRANSFORMATION
Some participants believed that the heart-pounding feelings of stress they experience aren't unhealthy, but actually there to help them feel more alert and equipped to handle the test.
They felt less stressed and anxious, and more confident about their performance on the test even though their bodies showed the characteristic heart rate increase of the stress response.
But there was a key and remarkable difference in how their bodies reacted to the stress. Instead of constricting and straining the already hardworking heart, their arteries stayed relaxed.
This is not only a much healthier way for your heart to handle its job during the stress response, it’s what automatically happens inside of your body when you experience courage. Courage!
So a simple belief, whether stress is bad for your health or not, is the difference between meeting the demands of life with courage and experiencing adverse health effects of stress.
HERE’S THE PARADIGM
The placebo effect is a perfect example of how your belief directly affects your experience and how the mind and body work together to, in this case, determine how stress affects you.
When someone believes they’re getting a beneficial and effective medical treatment, their mind thinks healing will occur and the body creates the conditions to make that happen.
But if they haven’t actually received treatment, the benefit is attributed to the person’s belief. Obviously, this isn’t always the case, but the placebo phenomenon is real and applies to stress.
If you think stress is helpful, your body uses the effects of the stress response, like an increased heart rate, in a way that feels expansive and supportive, and then turns your stress response off.
HERE’S THE DEAL
It works the other way too. When you have a negative interpretation of your body’s stress response, it feels constricting and distressing and can exacerbate demanding circumstances.
You might feel overwhelmed and frustrated and think you can’t handle challenges, or focus only on possible negative outcomes, and feel consumed with worry and self-doubt. (Sound familiar?)
When you believe stress is bad, it feels physically and mentally demanding so the stress response stays on, which you continue to interpret negatively, and this vicious cycle is chronic stress.
Your nervous system is either in stress response or in the relaxation response. It’s one or the other. and it’s your thinking, your belief, about your normal stress response that toggles the switch.
When you believe stress is bad, you get stuck in the vicious cycle of chronic stress and you’re susceptible to the damaging health effects of your stress response always being on.
Visualize pushing the pedal to the metal in a car that’s stuck in the mud. The gas keeps it revving for a while, but the wheels just spin, the car doesn't move, and eventually, the engine burns out.
HERE’S THE GOOD NEWS
You can change your belief about stress from bad to helpful, and improve your physical and mental wellbeing and even transform your experience of stress into a feeling of courage.
You can learn to embrace your body’s built-in stress response as supportive so that you can feel more calm and confident in your life instead of feeling overwhelmed and stuck.
You can learn to make peace with stress.