From the obesity epidemic to the rising divorce rate, political opposition, terrorism, and violence, we as a society have many prominent issues. Yet there is a problem that every person faces every day, from teenagers to the elderly, no matter your race or culture. It’s a force that diminishes our health and overall quality of life.
Barely a day goes by without experiencing it in some form. We rush in the mornings to school, work, or some other high-pressure environment. Sometimes we don’t sleep enough or eat properly throughout the day, which only contributes to our tense moods. Then we sleep and wake up to do it all over again.
Something has to change.
According to the Mayo Clinic, stress can display itself in symptoms such as:
- muscle tension
- upset stomach
- lack of focus
These symptoms lead to unhealthy coping behaviors which create an endless cycle of more stress and tension.
- overeating or undereating
- outbursts of anger
- substance abuse
- social withdrawal
- less exercise
We try to eliminate stress from our lives. Dr. Google has much to say on the subject, recommending walking, yoga, meditation, reading, music, and other pleasant activities . All those things are great and self-care is very important, but we must change one major flaw in our thinking.
Stress is not the enemy.
I was listening to a TedTalk by Kelly McGonigal titled: How to make stress your friend. I suggest you watch it by clicking on this link here.
Dr. McGonigal, a health psychologist, begins by explaining how she used to preach that stress makes us sick, from inflicting the common cold to cardiovascular disease. “But I’ve changed my mind about stress,” she confessed.
A study tracked 30,000 adults in the USA for eight years. The researchers asked the participants, “how much stress have you experienced in that last year?” and “do you believe stress is harmful to your health?”
Using public health records, the researchers found that people who experienced a lot of stress in the past year had a 43% chance of dying. “But that was only true for the people who also believed that stress was harmful to your health.”
The people who had a lot of stress but did not believe it was harmful had no heightened chance of dying, in fact, they had a lower chance than the people who experienced less stress.
“The researchers concluded that 182, 000 Americans died in the past year, not due to stress, but due to the belief that stress is bad for you.”
McGonigal stated, “If you change your mind about stress, you change your body’s response to stress.”
When we are stressed, we sweat, our heart starts racing, we breath faster, and we think this is anxiety, proof that we are failing at whatever task we are trying to complete. But what if you take this as a sign that your body was energized and preparing you for this challenge? This can help you feel more confident and prepared for the upcoming challenge.
Viewing stress as a strengthening mechanism, it will not harm your body. Instead, your body will view it positively, and your stress response will become healthier.
When asked at the end of the lecture whether it is healthier to choose a low-pressure job over a more stressful but preferable career, McGonigal answered:
“Chasing meaning is better for your health than trying to avoid discomfort. Go after what creates meaning in your life and trust yourself to handle what follows.”
I’d suggest you listen to the full talk. It might just change your life—or save it.
While you listen, make some pancakes. They taste like vanilla cake—except they are pancakes.
Do you believe stress is harmful? Comment below.
Vanilla Protein Pancakes
- 1 1/4 cup almond flour
- 1/2 cup vanilla protein powder (or add 1 tsp vanilla extract if using non-flavored protein)
- 2 eggs
- 1 cup almond milk
- 2 tbsp maple syrup
- Optional: Chocolate chips or blueberries
- Whisk the ingredients together until combined.
- Grease a frying pan and set it on medium-low heat.
- Spoon the batter into the pan, depending on how big you like your pancakes.
- If using, sprinkle on some chocolate chips or blueberries before you flip the pancakes.
- Cook until both sides are golden brown.
- Serve warm with maple syrup.