Stress is Your Friend: How to See Stress as a Good Thing

Stress is Your Friend: How to See Stress as a Good Thing
By Margaret Bligdon-Boyt
Editor in Chief

Stress is your friend! Of all the mad statements I have made in my life, this one must sound like one of the more bizarre, but let me tell you why.

We all know that stress is bad for our health - prolonged periods of stress are not only mentally distressing but also damaging to our immune system and put potentially dangerous pressure on our hearts.

But, what if we change the narrative on stress? What if we break it down into it's component parts and begin instead to see stress as a good thing?

Let's examine 2 main components:

1. Pounding Heart

Negative Thought -

I am going to explode/die/be a failure.

Positive Thought -

I am energised and ready for action, the blood pumping around my body is going to help me to succeed/get through this.

2. Increased Breathing Rate

Negative Thought -

I am going to faint/hyperventilate/my lungs are going to explode.

Positive Thought -

My breathing is getting more oxygen to my brain and that will help me to focus and find a solution to/cope with the situation.

When we view our stress response as being positive, a good thing happens - our physical response to stress changes. Usually during periods of stress the heart constricts but when we have a better response to stress, the heart has a response more in line with that of joy.

The other thing that we need to embrace about our stress response is the production of a neuro hormone called Oxytocin. During stress, Oxytocin is pumped into the body in large amounts and this is a good thing. If I tell you that Oxytocin is commonly known as the ‘cuddle hormone’ you will start to get an idea as to why its a good thing. It triggers the social contact instinct, it encourages us to tell someone how we are feeling, seek physical contact and increases our empathy for others. This useful hormone is programmed to protect the cardiovascular system and to help heart cells to regenerate after a stressful episode, actually strengthening your heart, it is also a powerful anti inflammatory.

It is that human connection which is the most healing. By changing the way we respond to stress and most importantly seeking help or just a hug when things get tough, we turn the stress response from one that is harmful to our health into one that promotes health.

Please be aware that Oxytocin can also be triggered without stress, it can also be triggered by empathy and physical contact. In order to get the most out of the ‘cuddle hormone’,  help those around you who are struggling and nurture your human connections.

Has this article changed your view on stress? Let us know what you think and share with anyone who could benefit from it.