We have long been told that stress is our enemy and should be controlled, reduced, relaxed and avoided as much as possible… however some research now suggests that we need to re-frame this stress in a more positive way. It seems that stress may only be bad for us if we believe that to be the case! Psychologist Kelly McGonigal suggests that we embrace stress. Instead of being concerned with levels of stress we are under we can change our minds about stress and it’s effect on us. When we experience sweaty palms and pounding heart, instead of feeling worried about it, she encourages us to think that these signs show our body is preparing to meet this challenge and view it as a positive that we’re energised and ready. It is important to recognise that your faster beating heart is getting more oxygen to your brain so you can think clearly and effectively and watch how your body is getting ready for action. The research showed that when our heart was pounding under the usual stress response our blood vessels constrict in an unhealthy way but amazingly when our heart pounds but we view this as helpful our blood vessels stay relaxed. These physiological changes in our body happen because of our thoughts about the stress and whether we accept stress as helpful or reject stress as a poison.
Kelly McGonigal goes on to explain that one effect of stress is to make us more social by the release of the hormone oxytocin often called the cuddle hormone. This hormone makes us more compassionate and caring and makes us seek support from others. In times of stress this hormone is pumped out alongside adrenalin and oxytocin’s job as an anti-inflammatory is to protect us and our cardiovascular system from the effects of stress. In fact it can even repair our heart from damage and strengthens our heart which is fascinating that a stress hormone can do the opposite of what we previously thought. The stress response actually has a built in mechanism for stress resilience. Isn’t it great that by reaching out to others we recover from stress faster!
So today give attention to the stress feelings in your body and when you’re feeling in overwhelm or stressed out use the magical intervention of connecting with those around you. Look people in the eye, touch them, talk and ask for help when needed. The flip side is that if you see others in distress offering a helping hand also creates resilience in you to stressful events.
For more on this approach to stress listen to Dr Kelly McGonigal’s Ted talk. It is fascinating!
Gina Fox is a naturopath with over 12 years’ experience. She is highly skilled in providing naturopathic care for women’s health issues, pre-conception health, infertility, IVF support, pregnancy care and through menopause. Gina loves to help couples achieve full-term pregnancies and give birth to beautiful healthy babies. She excels at addressing underlying stressors while couples achieve their optimal fertility. Her own meditation practice led her to become a meditation instructor and co-develop the Be Fertile series of guided relaxation CDs for women around conception, IVF and pregnancy support.