In “The Upside of Stress”, Kelly McGonigal claims that adjusting the way we think about stress can actually change the way our body responds to it. She claims that people hold two main beliefs on stress, which are mutually contradictory:
- Stress is harmful
- If I embrace stress, I can become stronger and I can grow and improve myself from it
When we assume that the first belief (Stress is harmful) is the right one we are likely to experience the negative effects of stress. In fact, to avoid stressful situations, we create an early stress response that puts pressure on our psychological and physical bodies. This pressure activates our body as we were, in fact, in a fight or flight kind of situation, leading us to chronic stress when the situation is long term. Moreover, when we realise that our stress level is increasing, we might increase it further just by thinking it’s harmful to us. In a few words, with this belief in mind (stress is harmful) we get into a loop where stress creates more stress.
On the other hand, when we believe that the second belief is the right one (stress can make me grow/improve), we create a situation where negative effects of stress decrease and consequently gives us the opportunity to use our personal resources in a more purposeful way. This could help us face our emotions, even the unpleasant ones, with a sense of curiosity. Whoever embraces stress as a learning opportunity, can face stressful situations more efficiently. Therefore, their nervous system is not likely to start a chain of physiological reactions (fight or flight) which would cause, medium to long term, various diseases.
And you? Are you ready to challenge your beliefs around stress? If you are, sign up to our exclusive stress management programme “LiFT – Life Flow Training for Stress Management”. More info and registration: