How to make stress your friend

How to make stress your friend

In her now-viral Ted talk, psychologist Kelly McGonigal reveals how stress can actually help us. 

Conventionally health psychologists aim to help their clients be happier rather than healthier but what if this is the wrong approach? 

Stress may be killing you, but only if you believe it is... 

Classic therapy teaches that stress makes you sick and that too much stress is bad, however a recent study challenges this approach. In the study, participants were asked whether they experienced stress as well as whether they thought stress was harmful to their health. The study found that those who answered yes to both questions had a 43% higher risk of dying! Take a moment to absorb that number. Those that said they experienced stress but felt it wasn’t harmful not only had a lower risk of dying than the group that answered yes to both questions but had also lower risks than those that said they did not often feel stress!!

Stress is not the enemy

McGonigal goes into her theory, she calls it 'changing how you think about stress can make you healthier'.

This was proved through a social stress test. In the test, those who viewed stress as helpful to their performance found their performance was better and their cardiovascular system looser. How you think about stress matters. When viewing stress as a helpful mechanism for the body to rise to a challenge, your body believes you, and stress becomes a helpful tool in overcoming challenges, not a harmful one. Off course, we don't need to give stress the power to control our response and happiness, but just to acknowledge that it's part of our biology and not something that can kill us.   

Overcoming stress relies on human connection

When the body is stressed it releases oxytocin (oxytocin is a stress hormone).

It's a part of the stress response (that triggers also other hormons and neurons in the brain), the same as adrenaline, it not only helps us relax and feel good but it nudges us to tell someone how we feel, to get support.

Simply saying - Oxytocin protects the cardiovascular system (The blood circulatory system) from the effects of stress, both mentally and physically.

Not the silent killer

McGonigal concludes that stress may not be the silent killer as conventional therapy once thought, the mind-body connection and the angle by which we view something majorly affects our physical well-being. 


Watch the full YouTube video →

Stress. It makes your heart pound, your breathing quicken and your forehead sweat. But while stress has been made into a public health enemy, new research suggests that stress may only be bad for you if you believe that to be the case. Psychologist Kelly McGonigal urges us to see stress as a positive, and introduces us to an unsung mechanism for stress reduction: reaching out to others.