How to conquer stress

With UCAS deadlines immanent, many students are feeling stressed. The problem with stress is that once you become aware of it (at least in my case) it become even harder to avoid. We have heard so much about having to learn to relax; how bad stress is for your heart (it causes the blood vessels to constrict, enhancing the risk of a heart attack) that it’s no wonder stress is so, well, stressful.

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I was casually browsing the talks on TED.com when I came across one about stress. For those of you who haven’t heard of TED.com, it’s a website consisting of many talks, each no longer than 20 minutes, on a variety of topics. These range from medical research to psychology, to democracy and education. The talks are really interesting, and are delivered in a way that regardless of your knowledge you will be able to understand them. CHECK OUT THE WEBSITE HERE

The talk I watched was given by the psychologist Kelly McGonigal and she explained her very different interpretation of stress. She stated that rather than viewing the symptoms associated with stress (pounding heart, quick breathing, adrenaline release) as negatives, we should see them as our brain’s way of preparing our body for the task ahead. The blood pumps faster to carry more oxygen to our brain and organs, thus preparing us for tackling the source of our stress. She explained the results from a test that had been done to examine the effect of stress on people who had been told stress was a positive response, versus people who believed stress to be a negative response. The results were amazing. The people who had been told stress was a positive reaction experienced the same outward symptoms such as more blood pumping, however their blood vessels did not constrict half as much as those belonging to the ‘stress is bad’ group. This meant that although stress did still affect them, their bodies were not being subjected to the aspect of stress most related with causing heart attacks. Basically stress became a positive bodily reaction to a challenge. 

McGonigal explained that by simply changing the way we view the affects of stress, we can physically alter the way our body responds. I think this is a very cool example of how our personal beliefs of something being harmful, can actually contribute to bringing about that harm. I will post the link HERE, so please give it a click and comment your thoughts. Were you convinced that simple thought can change the effect of stress?     

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