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The Positive Stress Mindset: why stress can be good for us

Updated: Apr 18





This is a transcript from the video above.


Hi everyone. Welcome back to burnout help stress and burnout first aid. Happy New Year.

I hope you guys are managing the end of the year well, without too much stress, and that it was a positive time for all of you.


Today I want to talk to you about the positive side of stress, which is something that is not appreciated enough. For most of my life and until very recently, I've always looked at stress as something very negative and I've spent most of my life avoiding it, trying to hide from it, trying to go back to safety because stress was a threat to my well-being and to my health. I have to say that I have been exposed to much stress in my life and it has done a lot of damage.


We hear that stress is bad. Well it is true a lot of stress is bad for us and has profound effects on our body on our health. But at the same time, new research and new evidence over the past 20 years is showing that stress can also be good for us.


There is a study that I came across that's been discussed a lot over the past 20 years. 25 years ago, 30,000 adults were asked 'are you experiencing a lot of stress in your life right now'? They were also asked 'do you view stress as something negative and harmful?' Eight years later they followed up on these people and they looked at what had happened to their health. What they found was that the people who had said that they were experiencing a lot of stress in their lives had a 43% higher chance of dying. But this only applied to the people who had also said 'I see stress as being harmful'. The people who had experienced stress, who had said 'yes I am experiencing fairly high stress right now' but who also responded 'no I do not see stress as harmful', did not have a 43% chance higher chance of dying. On the contrary, they had a lower chance of dying than the people who had said 'I'm not experiencing a a lot of stress in my life'.


So what this study showed is, that actually, stress, when viewed as something positive, can actually protect your health and can be good for you. Now we're so used to hearing about stress being so bad for us that we forget that stress has been built into us from an evolutionary standpoint for a reason. And we forget that. And again, if you are suffering from chronic stress, repeated stress, like I did for many years, then this is clearly not good for you and it will mess you up. But acute stress, short bursts of stress which we experience in our lives and at work all the time can be ok, if we do not immediately think and feel 'Oh no, this is terrible, I'm starting to sweat, I'm having this reaction, this is not good, I must avoid it, I must stop what I'm doing'.


What the study that I mentioned, plus new research, is showing is that, actually, if you switch your mindset and start saying 'well okay, I'm reacting like this, I'm experiencing this, I'm used to thinking this is not very pleasant but maybe this is an opportunity for me to grow to learn to be challenged', then stress becomes a different thing. So if I can reframe this and look at it differently then at that point something different happens in your body. You might still be releasing cortisol and adrenaline and other hormones and neurotransmitters, but they're not impacting your health in a negative way. On the contrary, they're busy now working differently for you in your body and possibly protecting you, increasing your resilience and tolerance. This i find is very profound, to think that actually stress can protect us and is there to help us. Stress can be good for us in small quantities. So next time you feel stressed, try to look at it differently, try to reframe the situation and see if you can go through it instead of immediately avoiding it.


All right. I hope this was useful. See you soon.



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