When we hear the word stress, we almost automatically think of it in a negative sense. High levels of stress have long been labeled the bad guy and have been linked with heart conditions, mental disorders and even obesity. While stress may play a role in the development of these health ailments, there is one other important factor that influences how stress directly affects you.
The more knowledge we gain about the inner workings of the body, the more focus and attention is being directed towards our belief systems. Research looking into the effects of stress on the body have found that an individuals beliefs about stress are the key determinant of the health outcomes associated with stress. People who believe that stress is bad for the body and attribute negative beliefs to stress are more likely to experience the plethora of negative impacts that stress can impart.
However the fascinating thing is that even with high levels of stress, people who view stress as a way of preparing the body for action and feel comfortable with its effects (the most obvious being a pounding heart) actually have a reduction in stress related morbidities. The reason for this lies in one key change to the blood vessels. High stress combined with negative beliefs about this stress causes the blood vessels to constrict and become narrower. This puts significant strain on the heart, not to mention on the blood vessels themselves. Over time this strain results in damage. In contrast, high levels of stress but positive beliefs about this stress cause the blood vessels to remain relaxed and open.
Knowing that by simply directing our thoughts about stress towards positive beliefs can have such an impact on our health is exciting. While changing our beliefs isn’t necessarily easy, with a bit of practice and reinforcement it can certainly be done. One of the best ways to achieve this is through self talk. When you feel your heart pounding, tell yourself it is normal and healthy to feel this way. Our bodies are designed to handle stress and actually need a certain level of stress to function normally. We would love to hear about how you turn stress into a positive experience.