How To Increase Your Life Expectancy 48% By Doing This One Simple Thing
The word "stress," carries so much baggage. Just hearing the word may trigger your mind to think about something that is currently "stressing you out." What does this mean? When we feel stress our body goes into an alarm response. This is a perfectly normal response to a situation that is perceived as being detrimental or dangerous to our wellbeing.
Once stress has been recognized (sometimes unconsciously) then a series of actions begin to take place within our physiology to overcome the stress. This is commonly known as the fight or flight response. Heart rate and respiration elevate, digestion and reproductive organs are suppressed, adrenalin and cortisol are released into the blood, and blood is shunted from the torso to the limbs.
Most of us know now that this type of stress response in the body is designed for short burst recovery. This is achieved when one of three things happens.
Adapt - your perception, approach or view of the situation
Remove - yourself from the environment creating the stress
Change - the stressor so it is no longer an issue
Numbers two and three are the most common approach people take, but number one might be the most profound. In 2013, on the TED stage, Kelly McGonigal presented interesting research that showed not only that our perception of stress influenced us, but that it could actually improve our health.
She opens with a study done on 30,000 adults over eight years. The researchers of the study asked participants, "do you believe that stress is harmful to your health?" Over the eight years, they tracked death records to see what happened. People who experienced an increased level of stress in the previous year had a 43% increased risk of dying. But, it was only true for those who believed that stress was harmful to their health. Those who did not believe stress was harmful had the lowest risk of dying of all groups! You can see her full TED talk here: https://www.ted.com/talks/kelly_mcgonigal_how_to_make_stress_your_friend?language=en
In my book, Deepening Your Practice I site more interesting research that supports this.
Stress can be your friend. Here’s how it works. One of the responses your body has to stress is an elevated release of cortisol. While this hormone is necessary to cope with short-term stress physically, prolonged elevated levels of cortisol are associated with such things as impaired immune function and depression. When a stressful situation ends, your body has stress recovery hormones. Two of these hormones are DHEA and nerve growth factor. Both of which increase neuroplasticity which physiologically allows your brain to learn and grow from a stressful situation. The scientific term for this is stress inoculation. Higher levels of DHEA are connected to the reduced risk of anxiety, depression and more. The key is to have higher DHEA levels and lower cortisol levels. The obvious question then becomes, how do you have higher levels of DHEA during a stressful situation. The answer is so easy that we miss it.
Ready for it?. . . change the way you think about the stress! If you think of stress as a challenge that will ultimately make you stronger, your stress inoculation levels go up. If you think stress will kill you then they go down. Mindset is everything.
"People who are good at stress allow themselves to be changed by the experience of stress. Embracing our natural capacity for growth can help us change in positive ways, even in circumstances we would never choose." - Kelly McGonigal
The next time you find yourself in a stressful situation take a step back, pause, and take a deep breath. Allow yourself to accept the current situation and see if you can view the stress as an opportunity to build more RESILIENCE.