How many of you have dealt with pretty sever stress at one point or another? Pretty much all of us right? We have all heard that stress is a sickness, that it can make you more likely to have a heart attack, and will shorten your lifespan dramatically. But what if that wasn’t the case, what if that was all in our minds?
A study was recently done, involving 30,000 US adults for 8 years. The study asked 2 important questions. “How much stress have you experienced in the last year?” And then asked, “do you believe stress is harmful for your health?” They then used public health records to see who died. The results are quite interesting. 43% of people who had experienced high levels of stress in the last year were more likely to die, but only if they also believed that stress was harmful to them. Those who didn’t believe that stress was harmful for them had little impact from stress itself, no matter the amount of stress they had in their life.
Changing your mind about stress can change your bodies response to stress. A study was done that put students at Harvard into a very stressful situation. They were pushed into incredibly stressful social interactions, with judgmental onlookers. Half the students weren’t prepped at all, the others were told to view stress not as a bad reaction, but as your body preparing itself for the situation. Your heart beating fast isnt a bad thing,it simply is pumping more oxygen to your brain. The body is flooding oxytocin into your system as part of the stress response, which motivates you to seek support, and makes you more compassionate towards others. The students who were prepped, and told to face stress as a normal and helpful reaction, not a bad thing, had positive physical reactions. Their bodies reacted to the situation in a way that was much more like reacting to joy, than stress.
Oxytocin, which floods the system during stress induced moments, has some unknown properties. Not only does it help your brain, but it helps your body. It protects your cardiovascular system during stressful times, it helps keep your blood vessels open, and it is a natural anti-inflammatory. It even helps regenerate heart cells, and strengthen your heart. These hormones grow stronger the more you use them by helping others. Another study was done, much like the first one. They asked 2 questions again, how much stress do you have, and how much time do you spend caring for/helping others? Then they checked the death records 5 years later. As expected those who had very stressful lives had a higher risk of dying, but those who spent time taking care of others shared absolutely no increase in dying. Caring created resiliance. How we act and how we think can definitely change our lives, maybe even save them.