How to Make Stress Your Friend – Part 2

In the second part of this blog series, we are going to discover the positive side effects that occur by having confidence in your body’s ability to handle stress. Harvard University conducted a study where participants were told before going through a social stress test about the possible signs that their body may produce in order to meet the challenge. They were taught to rethink their symptoms as helpful instead of harmful.

Astoundingly, participants who were able to view their stress symptoms as helpful were more confident and less stressed out.

In fact, their physical response also changed. Instead of their hearts beating fast and heart blood vessels constricting, their blood vessels stayed relaxed. Dr. McGonigal went on to explain that this cardiovascular picture looked much the same when people are experiencing joy as well as courage.

This outcome would indicate that the people in this study believed that their bodies would meet the stress that came at them, and they were confident in this belief.

Dr. McGonigal ventured that this one biological change could be the difference between having a stress-induced heart attack in your 50’s or living healthy, well into your 90’s. Research is showing that how you think about stress can have very different effects on your heath.

Instead of trying to eliminate the stress in your life, it would be healthier to view it in a different light.

In the next part of this blog, we are going to discuss a hormone called oxytocin. Most people commonly know this hormone as the cuddle hormone. However, this hormone is a part of your stress response. In part 3 of this blog, we will explore why this hormone is crucial to our health and wellbeing. If you have an opportunity, you can watch Dr. McGonigal’s lecture here.

Chelsey Beauchamp, MS
cbeauchamp @