“Stress. It makes your heart pound, your breathing quicken and your forehead sweat. But while stress has been made into a public health enemy, new research suggests that stress may only be bad for you if you believe that to be the case. Psychologist Kelly McGonigal urges us to see stress as a positive.” TEDGobal 2013.

Stress isn’t a dirty word.

The point here is, stress isn’t a dirty word. If we change our perceptions of stress from a negative thing and start thinking of it as ‘our bodies preparing us for a challenge‘ then stress will start to be our friend.

I recall a time recently when I experienced those kind of symptoms referred to in the pressure experiment in the video (ie racing heart etc.). I had planned a lesson to teach my Year 9 students and it was different to anything we had done before together. It was about meditation and I didn’t know how the students would react. It felt uncomfortable and uneasy about it, and nervous before the lesson had started. However, I was able to build myself up and give myself the confidence to deliver the lesson because I shifted my thinking to feel excited about these uncomfortable feelings. My bodies response to the situation was just letting me know that I care. The lesson I was about to teach and feeling nervous about must have been important to me because my body is reacting in this way and telling me so, which is a good thing! It would be more worrying if I didn’t have those uncomfortable feelings, because it would show that I don’t really care about it that much! And by the way, the lesson ended up being awesome 🙂

 

 

In the Harvard study discussed in this video by Kelly McGonigal, people have a different physiological response (particularly blood vessels) to stress. Stress is much more harmful for people who believe that stress is harmful (and can have negative health effects like restricted blood vessels and overworked immune systems) than those who don’t believe it to be harmful. For example, let’s say that little Penny and Amy both have a maths test next lesson. Both have a racing heart, both have sweaty palms and both of them feel sick in the stomach. The difference between them though, is Penny notices these feelings as her body preparing her for the test. Her heart is racing, meaning more blood and oxygen are going to her head so she can think and perform better on her test. Amy, on the other hand, sees these symptoms as a bad thing. She focuses on her racing heart, sick stomach and sweaty hands which distracts her from performing her best on the test. In this situation, Penny perceives stress to be a good thing, and would not be affected by the negative affects discussed in the video. Amy, on the other hand, if she continues to see stress as a dirty word, those uncomfortable feelings a bad thing and is experiencing them often (because to experience a racing heart, sweaty palms and feeling sick in the stomach before a test is actually a completely normal reaction) then it is possible she might begin to have trouble sleeping, get sick more often or not perform her best at school.

The next time you experience significant stress, what might you do differently now that you know a little more about the science of stress? How might this maximise your performance at school, work, or when playing sport?

5 comments

  1. Ill remember that stress is just a thing that happens, and that it is actually helpful and beneficial to you. Hopefully I will be less stressed in tests.

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  2. After watching this video, I will definitely not think of stress as a negative effect. I found this video very helpful as i now consider stress as something helpful instead of a constant worry that I have to put up with.

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  3. Now that i know a bit more about the science behind stress i will be able to think of it as a positive and natural thing. And next time i do experience stress i will probably be able to calm down a bit easier as i will know that that is my body trying to prepare me for the challange ahead. This will also definitely be able to maximize my performance in school as everything can be done better when you are calm.

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  4. Now that i know that stress is not a bad thing, i will definetly be able to focus more on my studying than getting rid of my stress.

    Before every basketball match, test or oral, i usually get really stressed but now, i will be able to actually concentrate on what i am doing because now i know that stress is normal and it isn’t a bad thing to be stressed before a big test, game or presentation.

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  5. Now that I know a significant amount of information about stress, I am realizing that stress isn’t as harmful as I predicted it would be! As of now I think stress helps a particular part of us, stress can help us as much as it makes us worry.
    This video and extra information has helped me realize that stressing as much as I did, hadn’t helped anything, from this blog I am going to second think every time I feel stressed, worried, anxious. Stressing doesn’t necessarily mean that it is a bad thing, it helps us in a certain way! I know that now

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