MENTAL SELF DEFENCE – Lesson 7: Stress, friend or foe?
Hypnotherapist & Life Coach
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Have you experienced any stress this year?
Do you believe it’s bad for your health?
If you answered yes to both questions, keep reading, because this month I’m going to explain how a simple shift in mindset won’t just improve your health, it’ll improve your relationships too.
Contrary to popular opinion, stress isn’t bad for your health. It’s what you believe about stress that determines its outcome.
A study carried out at the University of Wisconsin asked 30,000 participants two simple questions: How much stress have you experienced over the last year? and; Do you believe that stress is harmful to your health? Eight years later in 2012, they used public death records to find out who died and why.
The results were surprising.
Those who had experienced a lot of stress had a 43% increased risk of dying. But those that experienced the same levels of stress and didn’t believe it was harmful had the lowest risk of dying, even compared to those who experienced very little stress.
In a separate study at Harvard University, 8,000 students hearts were monitored in times of induced stress. Most of the students experienced restricted blood vessels (a contributor to heart disease), but those who were taught that stress is a helpful reaction – their pounding heart is preparing them for action, their quickened breathing is getting more oxygen to the brain – their blood vessels remained relaxed and healthy.
But how can stress improve your relationships?
When you’re stressed your brain doesn’t just release heart pounding adrenalin, it produces a heart strengthening hormone called Oxytocin.
Oxytocin makes us feel empathy, compassion and a need to seek support from friends, family or, er, me. When we do this, our brain releases more Oxytocin and we become healthier and recover faster.
In a study relating to this, 1,000 34-93 year olds were asked how much stress they experienced in the last year and how much time they spent helping out friends family and neighbours.
After 5 years, death records were once again checked and those who experienced major stress had a 30% increased risk of dying. But those that experienced a lot of stress and also connected with others, showed absolutely no increased risk.
When you change your mind about stress, you change your body’s response to it. Literally.
So when you’re next stressed, see it for what it is: the adrenaline preparing you for life’s challenges and the Oxytocin telling you that you don’t need to face them alone.