EMAIL #81 - 26TH, JULY, 2020 - THE UPSIDE OF STRESS
We are all experiencing probably the most uncertain and stressful period of our lives. One way I have found that helps me to cope with this heightened level of stress is to read about it and to try to understand and make sense of what I am feeling.
"Stress happens when something you care about is at stake. It's not a sign to run away, it's a sign to step forward." Kelly McGonigal
The above quote is from the opening chapter of a book written by Kerry McGonigal about the positive side of stress. This quote really struck a chord with me and cast a whole new light on how I think about stress. But before I get into expanding on the upside of stress, I would like to start by looking at something that is often misunderstood, "the difference between stress and anxiety". In general terms, stress is the degree to which you feel overwhelmed or unable to cope as a result of pressure. Whereas anxiety is your body's response to stress as a feeling of worry, nervousness, or unease about something with an uncertain outcome. One of the main differentiators is that unlike stress, anxiety often persists even after the concern has passed. But both stress and anxiety have very similar symptoms, such as insomnia, irritability, poor concentration, and fatigue.
"Our anxiety does not come from thinking about the future, but from wanting to control it." Kahlil Gibran
Long term stress and anxiety can have harmful physical and mental affects such as elevated blood pressure, cardio-vascular disease, and depression. But this is where it gets interesting; after extensive clinical studies in USA, Kelley McGonigal found that the harmful affects of stress greatly vary from person to person and the severity of these affects was largely determined by the subjects belief structures about stress. Her research showed that your attitude to stress is a significant factor in how you cope with stress and how physically harmful it is over time. McGonigal concluded that educating yourself and changing how you think about stress can actually affect how dangerous it is to your health and mental wellbeing.
"The greatest weapon against stress is our ability to choose one thought over another." William James
So stress is not all bad, after all "stressed spelled backwards is desserts"!
The positive side of stress is that it is your body’s natural way of you rising to a challenge and if you truly believe this your body will also respond in a positive way and the physical symptoms of the stress will reduce. It is also helpful to note that you don't stress out about things you don't care about and you can't really create a meaningful life without experiencing some stress. So, stress and meaningful things in your life are inextricably linked.
"It's not about getting rid of stress, but simply harnessing it to propel you forward." Mark Manson
Having a positive attitude to stress means that you can trust yourself to handle life's many challenges and that you don't have to face them alone.
Thanks for reading,
Stay safe and don't stress!