How To Make Stress Become a Friend

Worth Reading From Off the Web — Excerpts from https://www.ted.com/talks/kelly_mcgonigal_how_to_make_stress_your_friend

A major study concluded that people who experienced a lot of stress but did not view stress as harmful were no more likely to be negatively affected, and, in fact, had the lowest risk of dying of anyone in the study, including people who had relatively little stress.

The researchers estimated that over the eight years they were tracking deaths, 182,000 Americans died prematurely, not from stress, but from the belief that stress is bad for you.

That is over 20,000 deaths a year. Now, if that estimate is correct, that would make believing stress is bad for you the 15th largest cause of death in the United States last year, killing more people than skin cancer, HIV/AIDS and homicide.

Okay. Some bad news first. People who experienced a lot of stress in the previous year had a 43 percent increased risk of dying. But that was only true for the people who also believed that stress is harmful for your health

So this study got me wondering: Can changing how you think about stress make you healthier? And here the science says yes. When you change your mind about stress, you can change your body’s response to stress.

How to make stress your friend

Symptoms of stress — pounding heart, sweaty palms, hyperventilating, etc., — what if you viewed them instead as signs that your body was energized, was preparing you to meet this challenge? That is what one group of participants were told in a study conducted at Harvard University. Before they went through the social stress test, they were taught to rethink their stress response as helpful: That pounding heart is preparing you for action. If you’re breathing faster, it’s no problem. It’s getting more oxygen to your brain. And participants who learned to view the stress response as helpful for their performance, well, they were less stressed out, less anxious, more confident, but the most fascinating finding to me was how their physical stress response changed.

Now, in a typical stress response, your heart rate goes up, and your blood vessels constrict. And this is one of the reasons that chronic stress is sometimes associated with cardiovascular disease. It’s not really healthy to be in this state all the time. But in the study, when participants viewed their stress response as helpful, their blood vessels stayed relaxed. Their heart was still pounding, but this is a much healthier cardiovascular profile. It actually looks a lot like what happens in moments of joy and courage. Over a lifetime of stressful experiences, this one biological change could be the difference between a stress-induced heart attack at age 50 and living well into your 90s. And this is really what the new science of stress reveals, that how you think about stress matters.

So the next time your heart is pounding from stress, think to yourself, “this is my body helping me rise to this challenge.” When you view stress in that way, your body believes you, and your stress response becomes healthier.

Now I want to tell you about one of the most under-appreciated aspects of the stress response, and the idea is this: Stress makes you social.

To understand this side of stress, we need to talk about a hormone, oxytocin.

Oxytocin is a neuro-hormone. It fine-tunes your brain’s social instincts. It primes you to do things that strengthen close relationships. Oxytocin makes you crave physical contact with your friends and family. It enhances your empathy. It even makes you more willing to help and support the people you care about. But here’s what most people don’t understand about oxytocin. It’s a stress hormone. Your pituitary gland pumps this stuff out as part of the stress response. It’s as much a part of your stress response as the adrenaline that makes your heart pound. When oxytocin is released in the stress response, it motivates you to seek support. Your biological stress response is nudging you to tell someone how you feel instead of bottling it up. Your stress response wants to make sure you notice when someone else in your life is struggling so that you can support each other. When life is difficult, your stress response wants you to be surrounded by people who care about you.

Because of this hormone’s social component, your stress response becomes healthier, and you actually recover faster from stress. I find this amazing, that your stress response has a built-in mechanism for stress resilience, and that mechanism is human connection.

For every major stressful life experience, like financial difficulties or family crisis, that increased the risk of dying by 30 percent. But that wasn’t true for everyone. People who spent time caring for others showed absolutely no stress-related increase in dying. Zero.

And the harmful effects of stress on your health are not inevitable. How you think and how you act can transform your experience of stress. When you choose to view your stress response as helpful, you create the biology of courage. And when you choose to connect with others under stress, you can create resilience.

Read more at:

https://www.ted.com/talks/kelly_mcgonigal_how_to_make_stress_your_friend

Creating A Mindful Workplace

Worth Reading!

Toxic emotions disrupt the workplace, and mindfulness increases your awareness of these destructive patterns, helping you recognize them before they …

Mindful Workplace

3 Steps to Mastering Self-Love

Self-love, or compassion, involves treating yourself kindly, especially in the face of setbacks and disappointments.

Learn to say to yourself: “This is really difficult right now. How can I comfort and care for myself in this moment?”

Self-compassion involves recognizing that all human beings are imperfect and that means we will make mistakes. — Don’t scold yourself in a way that you would never do to another human being!

The following are three ways to help you begin to shift from self-criticism to the practice self-compassion.

1.  Pay attention to your inner-dialogue.

The first step in any behavioral change is to develop an awareness of the behavior itself. Begin paying attention to the things you frequently say to yourself. Write them down for greater clarity. (Don’t worry — this is for your eyes only!)

Choose  a time during the week when you experienced a strong emotion. Write down the specific thoughts you were having and your judgements about yourself.

2.  Practice  speaking kindly to yourself.

People will  say things to themselves that they would never say to someone they loved! Practice speaking kindly and gently to yourself, especially during times of stress or when you have made a mistake. If you are struggling to be kind, try looking at a photo of yourself  as a child. Try to think about how you would respond to a child or loved one who was struggling or having a difficult time.

3.   Create a list of ways for you to self-care.

Learn relaxation strategies. Schedule self-care into your calendar. “What would feel nourishing or calming to me in this moment?”.

self-reflection via journaling

Many people have told me that they have a hard time doing something for themselves, that it feels selfish or egocentric. But the fact is, we need to listen to ourselves before we can listen effectively to others.

 

How To Overcome Our “Not Good Enough” Voice

Instead of going down the beaten path of self-blame and self-punishment for not being “good enough”, we can rewire our brains to think and behave differently.

The theme of unworthiness shows up in all areas in life. As kids, we proudly show off our high marks and perfect behaviors knowing they will earn us praises and approval from adults, and as adults, we constantly judge and punish ourselves for our lack of wealth, success, relationships and others’ good opinions of us. In my healing and coaching practice, the most common story that is told over and over is the one of “I’m not good enough.”

That was the story of my life as well, for over 3 decades. Having grown up in an Asian culture in the 80’s where being an overachiever was encouraged, the accepted, even celebrated method to motivate children was to subject them to harsh criticism and belittling (ie. “who do you think you are”, “you are nothing until you prove your worth so you can be something”, etc.) As a result, I not only internalized the disempowering belief that “I am not good enough” but I also made sure it dominated and manifested in every area of my life — without fail.

As powerful as any belief can be, it is only a belief, and we can choose to liberate ourselves from it – simply because it isn’t who we are.

If you are constantly battling with a similar story, I invite you to read and practice the following steps to take your power back from that self-limiting belief.

Signs, Signs Everywhere

For many, the first sign might be a negative feeling. These feelings are intelligent communications from our bodies to indicate to us whether a belief is in or out of alignment with who we are. How we feel at any moment is filtered by our thoughts and our thoughts derive from our existing beliefs. When our beliefs are no longer serving us, our feelings – being the language of the soul in a very literal fashion will give us a little (or large) kick to raise an alert. When I am in a coaching session, whenever a story comes up that is out of alignment, I always ask my clients how the belief makes them feel. The answer is always along the line of “it makes me feel crappy.”

The signs can range from physical ailments such as lack of energy or tension in various parts of the body to mental and emotional symptoms such as procrastination, depression and anxiety; or they can be a combination of conditions from all levels including feeling a tight knot of anxiety in the stomach that is often accompanied by digestive issues.

Our beliefs also have clever ways to disguise themselves as positive, socially approved motivations and behaviors.

Perfectionism is one of them. For the longest time I unconsciously chose to tell the story of “I am a perfectionist” which allowed me to get away from the harsh voice of “I am not good enough.” After I ruthlessly put myself down for every little perceived failure, I finally realized my perfectionism was only a sugar coated version of “I suck.”

Another common disguise is altruism, or people pleasing behavior. We convince ourselves it is noble of us to place others’ needs before ours as well as compromise our own happiness because it earns us praises such as compassionate, kind and selfless. Some of us have the tendency to give ourselves up or lose ourselves completely in relationships. Our society has a very powerful reinforcement system when it comes to encouraging selfless behavior without addressing the fundamental notion that our first relationship is always the relationship with ourselves. Without loving, cherishing and respecting ourselves, there is no relationship with others. When we do not know how to value ourselves and make the highest choices for ourselves, how can we honor others as loving, deserving and worthy?

There is certainly nothing wrong with giving our best in circumstances and relationships. However, it is helpful to always do a little honest self-inquiry and ask ourselves how each decision makes us feel. And if it does not feel uplifting, what belief is underneath that decision?

When we practice consciously acknowledging our old patterns every time by listening to what our bodies are trying to tell us, we are stepping out of the unconscious and reactive way of living so we can compose a response that allows us to freely create based on who we want to be rather than recreate past scenarios of who we were told to be.

Instead of going down that old beaten path that leads to nothing but a stinking swamp, aka the self-blame and self-punishment for not being worthy, we can choose again and create a new path. The more we can catch ourselves on auto pilot, the more we can rewire our brains to think and behave differently.

Decisions, Decisions

Edited for emphasis

Read more here: Self Criticism? How to Overcome Your Inner “I’m Not Good Enough” Voice