Kelly McGonial: How to make stress your friend?

Kelly McGonial: How to make stress your friend?

#stress #oxytocin #humanconnection #biologyofcourage

Health psychologist Kelly McGonial of Stanford reveals unexpected ways of how you can make friends with stress instead of falling prey to it.

In a study which tracked 30.000 adult in the United States for eight years, two questions were asked from people:

  1. How much stress have you experienced in the last year? and
  2. Do you believe that stress is harmful for your health?

And then they used public death records to find out who died. As you can expect, people who have experienced a lot of stress, had a higher risk to die. But surprisingly,

only those people died who also viewed stress as harmful for their health.

In the study, people who had high stress but believed that stress is not bad, but helpful for them, had the lowest risk of anyone of dying! This means that stress just by itself should not have detrimental effects on your health, it all depends on how you narrate what is going on in your body when you are experiencing the symptoms of breathing faster, stronger pounding of your heart or perhaps breaking out into a sweat. In other words,

if you change your mind about stress, your body will change its reactions to it too.

McGonial goes on describing on neurophysiological level how stress can make you more social. Part of your stress response is releasing a hormone, which is well known for aspects of cuddling and supporting and caring for others, but less for the fact that it is also a stress hormone: oxytocin.

When oxytocin is released under stress, it is motivating you to seek comfort and approach others. Clearly when life is difficult, you want to be surrounded by people who care about you and your body helps you reaching your goal by pumping up sufficient biological fuel to act accordingly.

Oxytocin also helps your blood vessels stay relaxed during stress, which makes you healthier and recover faster from stress. And when your action of reaching out to others is in place, your body releases even more oxytocin: a marvellous example of how your mind and body can work together hand in hand leading to the desired outcome. The coolest side of this is that not only asking for support, but caring for others had the same effect on people as another study showed. Another brilliant proof that human connection can save lives, and caring creates resilience. If you want to understand this and to dive deeper into the topic of how to become better at stress management, I strongly recommend you to watch the whole video!