This week in Psychology, we were given a Ted Talks video to watch, in which health psychologist, Kelly McGonigal, discusses the important role that stress plays in our lives.
Whenever someone mentions the word “stress”, people tend to think about the negative ways in which it impacts our lives. Kelly McGonigal, however, offers a different perspective on stress and proposes the idea of it being a good thing to have. She talks about the psychical symptoms that stress can often cause a person to experience, such as an increased heart rate and sweating. These uncomfortable symptoms couldn’t possibly be benefiting our overall health and well-being, could they? Dr. McGonigal goes to explain how, yes, these psychical reactions to stressful situations are actually working to help the body during these times. It is only society’s skewed perception of stress that makes it potentially unhealthy for us int he long run. Multiple studies discussed in the Ted Talk showed that regardless of the amount of stress someone was under, how they viewed their stress is what ultimately affected their health. In one study, participants were asked how much stress they had gone through that year and also how much time they had spent helping people either in their family, friend groups or in their community. For the next five years, records were kept of deaths that occurred of the participants. At the end of the study, results showed that for every significant, stressful life event that occurred, increased the risk of dying by 30%. This fact would seem to favor the idea that stress is bad for your health. The study also found, however, that those who helped others around them, experienced no increased risk of death. This further proves the theory that thinking about your stress in a positive light can change the way it affects you and your body. Once the psychical symptoms of stress are viewed as your body’s way of helping you, it truly does change the way, in which, stress impacts your health. Applying this concept to my own life can definitely work to benefit not just my health, but my mental state. Thinking about my schoolwork and other things in life can become overwhelming at times. But focusing on my stress as something there to help me through these times will most likely assure me that what I’m feeling is normal and will ultimately lead me to live a longer and healthier life.