The psychologist Kelly McGonigal has exceeded 10 million views on the well-known talk platform, TED, with the video “How to make stress your friend”.
And in truth, we have always known that stress is harmful to our body in many ways, but we rarely find a long-lasting solution. In her talk, this psychologist tells us that if we can change the way we think about stress, we will be able to control it.
Doctor McGonigal completed an 8-year study at Harvard University questioning 30,000 adults in the United States on their stress level over the previous year and their perception of this problem. The studies concluded that people who believed that stress was harmful to health had a 43% increased risk of death. Conversely, the participants of the study who learned to see stress as something positive were less anxious and more self-assured.
That is not to say that living with constant stress is something positive. Simply that when it occurs, it is best to accept it as something beneficial for us.
When a stressful situation arises, the heart beats quickly, we start to sweat, and we feel physical changes and anxiety. The psychologist tells us that the best thing to do is to see all these indicators as signs that our body is filling with energy. Thus, the heart is getting ready for action and more oxygen is reaching the brain since we are breathing more quickly.
Furthermore, upon being exposed to stressful situations we enable the activation of oxytocin, a hormone that encourages us to search for help and to surround ourselves with people that worry about us. This happens because the effects of stress are effectively counterbalanced by human contact, thus with a hug or with some words of support our ills become cured.
In short, if we see stress as something useful, we can transform our way of thinking about and of acting on it and other people around us who are stressed.
If you have 14 minutes to dedicate to this video, take on-board the key points from the talk yourselves, it is worth it: