Stress – Is it beneficial?

From the moment my husband and I woke up yesterday morning, it had been a non-stop day. Not just like a busy day, but seriously not even a second to sit and eat lunch. I drank my protein smoothie as I was driving around passing out posters, paying bills and running errands for our yoga studio that is opening in less than two weeks. All of this with phone calls, texts and emails to respond to as well. Non. Stop. Looking back on my day though, I realize that it was a beautiful, wonderful day. During all that time, I caught up with a long lost friend, I tried a new yoga posture in my morning practice, I ate healthy, I was blessed to be able to work with my husband, and I furthered my education by attending my class this evening. Also, our yoga studio got Internet and a phone number! It’s the little things guys. It wasn’t until I was sitting at home, on my couch, thinking back on my day, that I realized, whoa. Just whoa. How did I manage to do what I did today without stressing out and wanting to come home and take a nap? (I tend to get sleepy when I get stressed out too often.) It wasn’t until I was able to slow down that I remembered something that we have been studying in my Health & Wellness class; “Stress, make it your friend.”

What? My friend? All this time, I use deep breathing exercises and meditation and running to reduce my stress levels, why would I want to be friends with it. How would that even be possible? So, I found a TED talk on stress by Kelly McGonigal and watched it. She is a brilliant woman and brought up some very interesting points. She talks about how so many people shy away from stress because, well it can be scary. You sweat, you fumble on your words, and your heart beats faster. It doesn’t surprise me that a lot of people are on medication for this. Not only this, but high stress situations can make your heart vessels constrict and prevent blood flow to the heart, which can cause heart attacks. Just reading those facts make it sound terrible. Later in the talk, to my surprise, she shared that there is a way to control this and use stress and stressful situations to our advantage. I was all ears. I need to be able to control myself in a stressful situation and act rationally and mindfully. McGonigal states that all we need to do is change our mindset. Sound easy? Well, it can be! Studies have shown that when people go into a situation, expecting there to be stress, they can calm their minds as well as their heart and act in a manner that makes it seem they are under no stress at all. In fact, on a physiological level, these patients’ heart vessels remained relaxed. They looked exactly as they would if that person had just hugged a person they love! Isn’t that amazing? Our minds contain great power and control over our bodies that we should utilize more often.

I sure felt this first hand today. I knew today was going to be crazy, and I was prepared in my mind for it to be busy. I think that knowing and planning for this to happen, allowed me to not feel stress when in different situations where I normally would. In fact, I felt positive, determined, alert and planned in every interaction. I controlled my stress so it worked for ME, instead of me being controlled by my stress.

What are ways to get stress to work for you?

“It’s not the load breaks you down, it’s the way you carry it.” – Lou Holtz