Most of us see stress as a negative factor. But it is this negative stigma, rather than stress itself, that gives rise to the adverse side effects often associated with stress.
“Even though we think of stress in the moment as distressing,…stress can be a barometer for how engaged you are with the things in your life that bring love, that bring laughter, that bring learning and that bring growth.”
According to the “stress paradox,” the more stressed you feel on a given day, the more likely you are to be sad, anxious or angry. On the other hand, it is this state that you also can experience joy, love, and laughter.
“The protective benefit of embracing stress, rather than trying to reduce or avoid stress, seems to hold whether your life is currently not very stressful or extremely stressful and whether or not you have had a relatively easy life or whether your life has had a lot of adversity in it.”
Stress is an indicator of purpose and engagement. So people who experience meaningful lives tend to worry more.
If you can remove the negative stigma of stress, you can develop healthier physiological responses to stressful situations.
“The way to change your mind-set is surprisingly simple…When you’re feeling stressed out, just make contact with the paradox of stress.”
Viewing stress in a positive light can reduce your production of cortisol, a stress hormone, and instead increase your production of neurosteroids that help the brain adapt to challenges; and raise your heart rate variability, a signal of emotional resilience.
Psychologist & Lecturer
Kelly McGonigal, PhD, is a health psychologist and lecturer at Stanford University and a leading expert on the mind-body relationship. She is the author of several books, including The Upside of Stress, the international bestseller The Willpower Instinct, andThe Neuroscience of Change. She has worked with the Stanford Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education since 2009, co-authoring the Stanford Compassion Cultivation Training (CCT) program and collaborating on scientific studies examining how compassion can promote health and happiness. She has consulted for a wide range of organizations and industries ranging from healthcare and higher education to technology and finance, helping to bring evidence-based strategies for resilience and well-being into the workplace.