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A Healthier Life: Change How You THINK About Stress!

healthy thinking… new research suggests that stress may only be bad for you IF you BELIEVE that to be the case …

Oh great I can hear you say!  Now it’s all my own fault.  As if it isn’t bad enough that I feel stressed, now it’s all created in my own head?!

Well, yes and no.

For years we’ve been told that stress makes you sick.  Many of us have believed that without blinking.  That it lowers the effectiveness of your immune system.  That it increases your risk of coming down with colds, cold sores, the flu and a multitude of other bugs.  We believed stress was the enemy of healthy living.

But is that all true?

A study of 30,000 adults in the US over a period of 8 years suggests that perhaps it’s not.  It seems to be extremely important whether you BELIEVE stress is harmful or not.

If at the start of the study you believed that stress was harmful AND had experienced, what you perceived as, high levels of stress – then you had a 43% higher risk of dying during the study.  Yikes!

If though you had experienced, what you perceived as high stress, but did NOT believe stress was harmful – then your risk of dying was no higher than those people who experienced little stress.  In fact the group that had experienced high stress, but didn’t believe it was harmful had the LOWEST risk of dying of anyone in the study.

To put it simply people die from the BELIEF that stress is bad for them!

If you extrapolate data from the study to the entire US population, over the same 8 year period, then almost 200,000 Americans died prematurely from the BELIEF stress was harmful.  That makes it the 15th biggest cause of death in the US!

It seems that the harmful effects of stress are NOT inevitable.  How you THINK  and how you BEHAVE can totally transform your experience of stress.

So what can you do?

Research has shown that if you view your stress response as HELPFUL – as something that serves you – as something that can help you be successful and rise to meet a challenge – then your heart may be pounding, you may be breathing faster, but your blood vessels remain relaxed.  And your RESPONSE to stress becomes HEALTHIER.

Try telling someone how you FEEL.  Oxytocin – released during the stress response – promotes empathy, compassion, closeness and caring.  Oxytocin strengthens your heart.  It relaxes your blood vessels.  It gives you stress RESILIENCE.

When you choose to connect with others under stress you CREATE resilience.  Do you remember that feeling that you can’t build a real relationship with someone until you’ve experienced both the good times and the bad times together?  That’s the impact of oxytocin.

We’re not all going to run out there and start looking for stress.  But let’s be honest stress is something that’s very hard to get away from these days.

Maybe you could start to TRUST yourself a little more – to go after your dreams, to reach for your version of the stars, and to deal with the stress that follows in a healthier way…

If you’d like to watch the TED talk that inspired this post ‘How to Make Stress Your Friend‘ by Kelly McGonigal, health psychologist – then just click below.  Enjoy!

Wishing you all a very Merry Christmas and a fantastic 2014!

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