In the previous sections of this blog, we began exploring the health benefits the body experiences by simply viewing the body’s stress response (quickening heart beat, sweaty hands, etc) as helpful.
In the last part of this series, we will investigate how the hormone oxytocin is a critical component to the stress response.
Dr. McGonigal notes that this hormone motivates your brain to seek support and let someone know how you feel instead of bottling it up. This hormone also encourages you to notice and support others when they are struggling. Your body, and particularly this hormone, wants you to be supported by people who care during a time that is particularly stressful. Essentially, your body is naturally craving human connection in order to mentally and emotionally assist you in your time of need.
Not only does this hormone act on your brain, it also benefits your body. oxytocin armors the cardiovascular system against the negative impacts of stress. In fact, oxytocin helps heart cells regenerate and heal from stress induced damage. All of these physical benefits are enhanced by social contact and support or giving support to others when they are in need.
In fact, when you reach out to others during this time, your body releases more of this hormone and gets stronger at handling stress.
The most eye-opening concept that Dr. McGonigal introduced was the concept that the body has a built in mechanism for stress resistance, which is human connection. Human connection brings value to our lives and has many benefits including protecting our bodies from the negative effects of stress.
Stress is inevitable in life. However, you can choose how you experience stress. By choosing to connect with others during stressful times, you create resilience in your body. Dr. McGonigal espouses that when you begin to view your stress response as helpful, you create the biology of courage.
Chelsey Beauchamp, MS
cbeauchamp @ growcounseling.com