Stress Less About Stress

It’s a vicious cycle. Life gets hectic, because let’s face it–life is spelt UNCERTAINTY–and you find yourself stressed. You’re overworked, tired, cranky, developing ulcers, losing hair (either naturally or by the fistful of frustration), sleeping too little, eating too little, or even worse…eating too much.

Sounds terrible. But also terribly familiar, right?

The stress you experience causes adverse symptoms; those symptoms lead to stress about said symptoms; and there you are in the vicious cycle: stuck in a not-so-merry-go-round of increasing stress-levels and expanding pant sizes. But does our experience with stress have to be so eternally negative? According to Kelly McGonigal, Ph.D and Stanford Health Psychologist, maybe not.

Here at PiP, we gladly defer to academic expertise, and apparently the experts are deferring to YOU.

In a recent (and highly recommended) TED Talk, McGonigal explains that stress and its influence on your body–which includes the waistline–is dependent on how you think about stress. It turns out that it does matter if the glass is half-empty or half-full, and it’s a difference your life expectancy can feel. Those who see stress positively are least likely to die from stress-related diseases, even when considering individuals who experience little to no stress. While I’m skeptical about the existence of these “little to no stress” anomalies, I’m more intrigued by the possibility that we have a leg-up on them.

According to this newly expanding body of knowledge, individuals who view their stress positively, redefine the negative consequences of stress. In particular, they reassess the so-called “negatives” that we associate with the–sweaty, stomach-tightening, voice-choking, heart pumping dangerously fast–stress response. If you tell yourself your stress will make you sick, your veins tighten and become strained; if you tell yourself your stress is your body preparing to confront and defeat a challenge, your veins open and embrace the good cardio. It’s all about individual perception. Suddenly, the parental adage to “Check your attitude!” seems more pertinent to a healthy adult life (and not just because we can use it on our own children now).

Stress can be HEALTHY! In fact, the PiP team and Kelly McGonigal highly encourage you to believe that it is. Here in the world of Philanthropy and Nonprofits, we’re trained to know it’s the small things that make the difference: that and a group of people willing to give everything they’ve got to make things better. So give it all you’ve got to change your perceptions about stress. Your sanity and your waistline will thank you!

Feb, 11, 2014

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