June 2013 | Click here to watch the TED Talk
After years spreading that stress makes you sick and that increases the risk of everything from a cold to cardiovascular diseases, a study began to change her approach to it.
The study tracked 28.753 adults in the United States from 1998 to 2006 it began with two questions:
- How much stress have you experienced in the last year?
- Do you believe that stress is harmful for your health?
Then they used public death records to find out who died and they cocluded that:
- People who experienced a lot of stress in the previous year had a 43% increased risk of dying if they believed that stress was harmful
- People who experienced a lot of stress but did not view stress as harmful had the lowest risk of dying. Even below people who had relatively low stress.
Science says that changing your mind about stress can make you healthier because you can change your body’s response to stress.
In this study from Harvard University, they compared the physical and cognitive response between 3 groups that were submitted to a stressful situation. Two of them were control groups and the participants from the other group were told to view the signs of stress as signs that your body was preparing you to meet the challenge. The results showed that:
- By changing their perception to stress, they were less stressed out, less anxious and more confident
- On top of that, their physical response changed too. Their blood vessels stayed relaxed and it looked like the response of joy or courage instead of the typical stress response.
Stress makes you social. Oxytocin (a.k.a “the cuddle hormone”) is a hormone that gets pumped out by the pituitary gland in stressful situations to motivate you to seek support and surround yourself by people who care about you.
When you’re stressed and reach out to others to seek support or to help someone else, you release more oxytocin, your response to stress gets healthier and you can recover faster from its negative symptoms.
Finally, in this study conducted at Buffalo University, they wanted to test if the hypothesis that providing help to others predicts a reduced association between stress and mortality. What they found is that:
- For every major stressful life experience (financial difficulties, family crisis, etc) the risk of dying increased by 30 percent
- But, people who spent time helping others didn’t see any increase in stress-related deaths, zero
How you think and how you act can transform your experience of stress.
When you choose to view your stress response as helpful, you create the biology of courage. And when you choose to connect with others under stress, you can create resilience.