Stress is an unavoidable symptom; problems will always be engrained in one’s daily life, yet learning how to conquer it instead of running away will cause one to rise above and grow from the experience. Changing one’s mindset may play significant factors, even allowing one to embrace stress as part of a growing experience rather than viewing it as debilitating.
Of course, stressful situations are neither enjoyable nor pleasant in the moment. Stress usually comes when one has too much responsibility and burdens, when there is uncertainty and instability or when something tragic or traumatic has happened. However, similar to any hardship one may face, there is always a reward reaped in the aftermath. Stress need not always be a bad thing.
One’s perspective on what stress is may be of utmost importance in overcoming it. A recent study done by Yale scholars Alia J. Crum, Peter Salovey and Shawn Achor proves that those who had the “stress is enhancing” mindset versus those who had the “stress is debilitating” mentality had lower cortisol levels. In addition, people who view stress through a more positive lens report having happier lives, better health and better work performance.
There are some positive benefits of stress that may help combat and change the “stress is bad” mindset. As with adversity, stress can also help one build stamina and create more resilience when other hardships come. In addition, overcoming stressful seasons can allow one to grow and can even motivate one to work more efficiently. Although being under chronic stress may not be healthy, some situations cannot change. However, one’s attitude towards a circumstance is completely under the person’s control. Altering one’s mindset about the situation can be the first and most critical way of dealing with it.
According to Web MD, the human body has a natural reaction when put under stressful situations. Hormones are released by the central nervous system that put the body in a fight or flight mode. As a result, the heart rate increases, muscles tense, and alertness increases in order to prepare to fight or run away from the situation. Firdaus Dhabhar, director of the Center on Stress and Health at Stanford University, notes that stress temporarily boosts the body’s immune system. She describes it as having a crew of cells coming to repair damaged parts of the body.
Furthermore, bursts of stress may also play a part in sharpening brain activity and memory as shown by a recent study done by the University of Buffalo. When rats were forced to swim, they remembered how to weave in and out of the mazes better compared to when they did not need to swim. The stress hormone cortisol releases when people are put under pressure, often causing learning and memory to increase as well.
Studies have also shown that stress may also increase the production of another hormone called oxytocin, also referred to as the “trust hormone.” Oxytocin can help alleviate social anxiety and increase one’s empathy and connection with one another. This in turn can combat cortisol levels as one turns high-pressure situations into opportunities to reach out and build deeper connections with others.
One’s actions, attitudes and results in life are an outflow of the way things are viewed. Steven R. Covey explains in his book The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People that a person’s paradigm—whether positive or negative—is the source of all one’s attitudes, behaviors and relationships with other people. A change in one’s paradigm and mindset about how one deals with stress may make a difference in living a more successful life.
By Joyce Chu