Stress comes in the form of heavy workloads, tight budgets at home, family disputes, current events in the news, and more. While we can’t avoid stress, we can change its impact on our health and happiness by changing how we look at it. As the old saying goes: Mindset is everything.
The negative side of stress: Stress and its effects are portrayed negatively in literature. We repeatedly hear that stress is debilitating; we should avoid stress at all costs; it has a draining impact on our health and wellbeing. “Stress is a leading cause of death,” they say. “Stress leads to absenteeism from work, mental illness, depression, and suicide,” they say. “Stress will make you gain weight,” they say. Since most of us are already stressed, this information makes us feel stressed about being stressed. Get this; research proves that if we focus on the negative news about stress, we are more likely to experience the draining effects.
The positive side of stress: What if we instead hear that stress is beneficial and can enhance our wellbeing? There are loads of scientifically proven information that says stress can improve memory and intelligence, enhance the immune system, increase productivity, and speed recovery. Research says that even high-stress levels can create deeper relationships, a greater appreciation for life, create mental toughness and strengthen priorities. Get this; research also proves that if we focus on the positive effects of stress, we are more likely to use it to our advantage. People who believe that stress is beneficial are more likely to have better health, greater life satisfaction, and lowers cortisol (the “stress hormone”). Again, mindset is everything.
We CAN change our mindset. Studies prove that changing our mindset about stress is not only possible, but it can happen quite easily. In one experiment, people viewed videos presenting research that demonstrated either the enhancing nature of stress or the debilitating nature of stress. Interestingly, people seemed to shift their mindset about stress quickly. People that were showed the stress in enhancing video developed the attitude that stress is beneficial. They began to see life stressors as challenges and felt like they had the strength to overcome obstacles. Even more interesting, they reported better work performance and improved mental states. On the flip side, people who were showed the stress is debilitating videos quickly developing the mindset that stress is debilitating. They began to see stress as overwhelming and felt a lack of strength to meet life’s pressures.
I’m not saying that the negative news about stress is not accurate. I’m pointing out that our mindset regarding the effects of stress can induce two very different results. Our brains are pretty amazing!
My take-away message: Maybe we don’t need less stress in our lives; maybe we need to look at it differently! The next time your feeling stressed, be mindful about how you think about it. Viewing stress as enhancing can influence your health and happiness!
Tiffany Determan is a resident in Chisago County.