Paolo Assandri
0  /  100
  • Stories

Stress isn’t healthy…. If you think it isn’t

“Stress negatively affects our lives”, “stress is damaging to our health”, “stress gets in the way of our relationships”: these are only a few long-held beliefs by our culture on stress. But what if some of these beliefs were to be reviewed?

A study dated 1998, even though confirming that high levels of stress may physically damage ourselves, pointed out a more complex relation between stress and disease. Amazingly enough, the research highlighted an aspect that was not so obvious in earlier studies on stress. Especially it did show that stress is harmful to those individuals who believe so.

A newer study, dated 2012, estimated that individuals who did believe that stress was not very harmful to their health were getting less sick, also when facing a huge amount of stress. Therefore, according to this research is the kind of relationship we have with stress that can make it less dangerous for our health.

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:

  1. Stress is harmful
  2. 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:


Author: Paolo Assandri is a Counselling Psychologist (HCPC and British Psychological Association registered), a Psychotherapist (UKCP) and Psychologist-psychotherapist (Ordine degli Psicologi del Piemonte). He is based in London where he lives and works.

No responsibility disclaimer: The information provided in this article is not intended to be a substitute for professional health or medical/psychological advice or treatment. The article is for general informational purposes only to improve wellbeing. Consult with a licensed health care practitioner (medical doctor, psychologist or psychotherapist) in case of need. Authors, producers and consultants linked to this article are not responsible for choices nor actions of readers following the read of this article.

Change your brain and learn how to manage your stress (the other way round too)