Stress is good for you. A couple of weeks ago I watched a Ted Talk by Kelly McGonigal entitled, How to Make Stress Your Friend. Previously, I had been spending my time and effort trying to reduce stress in my life as I believed that it could lead to many health issues as well as a lesser quality of life. McGonigal highlights a large study that shows stress has no effect on health or life expectancy, rather, our attitude toward stress being what makes the difference. People were asked to rank their stress, and then asked whether they thought that their stress was good or bad. The people who thought that their stress was good for them, lived far longer than those people who thought about stress as something negative, regardless of how they ranked their stress.
What a life changing concept! So many of life's stressors are impossible to avoid. Sure, one could shut oneself off from any experience or person which causes stress, but this seems to be a way to avoid life. Life is messy and imperfect and STRESSFUL. I would like to experience all that life has to offer, and I am learning that stress is part of it all. Humans are capable of greatness, and it doesn't seem possible for creations, inventions, humanitarian movements, scientific achievement, discovery, or really anything exciting to happen without stress. McGonigal says it best, "chasing meaning is better for your life than avoiding discomfort."
It's been a wild week in my world. Extra appointments, lugging children downtown in frigid temperatures and snow drifts, illness, record cold temperatures followed by record snowfall, snow days, impossible to do lists, plenty of opportunities for my faith in humanity to be restored, as well as some, humanity is dead, soul squashing moments. In the end though, my stress levels (which were definitely higher this week) don't matter, only my attitude toward the stress. Whenever I had a stressful moment, I would say to myself, "Stress is good for me. Stress is good for me!" and sometimes, "Stress is good for me?" I am far from perfect at this exercise, but I hope to make it a habit. It actually feels easier than eliminating stress, which feels impossible!
I am not sure how my anxiety is good, but it is there. Anxiety is a survival instinct which has evolved over millions of years to protect us. So perhaps my protection skills are developing?
I do believe that all stress is not equal. I had formerly thought that there was good stress and bad stress. Examples of good stress would be stress for a test, performance, or a new challenge at work. Bad stress would be family issues, having too many demands, or worrying about things you can't control. This belief that all stress is good, has shifted my view on the "bad stress." I now view these challenges as good for me, and that simple change in attitude could make all the difference in how I deal with my stress, and how my body deals with stress.
There are some stressors which must be avoided, regardless of your attitude toward stress, toxic and abusive people, for instance. If the situation you find yourself in is dangerous, physically or emotionally, get out! However, if you find yourself in a situation that you would have previously avoided for the purpose of lowering your stress levels, take a chance, go for it! Stress is good for you!
This was so fun to make, like colouring maps in elementary school. Yay for colouring!