Stressing the Positive
Many of us are familiar with our doctors’ and loved ones’ warnings about how stress affects our heart, brain, and overall health. However, inevitably, stress is an unavoidable part of life, and the important thing is to deal with it more effectively so that we’re not overcome by it.
When too much stress takes over, anxiety can go into overdrive, and health problems often ensue. Blood pressure rises, we’re more vulnerable to heart attacks and stroke, and we gain weight. If we can’t get rid of stress, how do we make it work for us?
One good first step is to recognize situations where a little stress can bring out our best selves. For example, stress can drive us to the next level during a competitive athletic event, during exam time, and even in various situations at the workplace, since the pressure can help us focus better on the task at hand. Stress can also help boost your memory and accomplish tasks more efficiently.
Stress for Success
Stress can also be a life saver when it is serving as vital warning system, producing the fight-or-flight response. In situations of stress, senses suddenly have a laser-like focus so you can avoid more physically stressful situations, such as jumping away from a moving car. Furthermore, The Stanford University School of Medicine researchers recently learned that short-term stress actually stimulates immune activity.
At her much-discussed TED talk from 2013, Psychologist Kelly McGonigal (Watch the talk Here) put forth a seismic paradigm shift, advising the audience to see stress as a positive aspect of life: reaching out to others, and helping them deal with their own times of stress and trouble. Her TED talk is part of a series (Watch the series here) that guides viewers into how to use stress as a part of being more productive.
The Chill-Out Factor
There are also relaxation techniques that you can integrate into your daily routine to manage stress and keep those fight-or-flight reflexes in check to stave off the adrenaline and cortisol hormones behind weight gain.
- Yoga not only stretches the muscles, but also has a relaxing effect that goes beyond stress relief to improved health and well-being.
- Meditation that often follows a yoga session (but can be done anytime and anywhere) reduces oxygen consumption, the respiratory rate, heart rate, and blood pressure (especially among patients with elevated blood pressure). It also increases alpha brain waves that are characteristic of relaxed minds.
- Self-hypnosis and mantras elicit many of the same physiological changes as meditation. A mantra for relaxation, for example, reduces oxygen consumption, respiratory rate, and heart rate.
- Use your imagination: There’s something to be said for daydreaming on positive subjects and future successes. In fact, daydreaming has long been used as a wonderful tool for stress relief.