Just before Christmas, I had a major setback in my computer life. My harddrive crashed and I lost data from the spring of 2016 to the end of this year. Additionally, I lost all my contacts in my email program and then transferred from that email program to a new one.
Throughout this whole journey, I have noticed several times when I experienced stress because of it. But each time, I would catch myself thinking upsetting thoughts and would have to self-soothe: “It’s okay! It’ll all work out! If it’s important, it will be dealt with.”
This month has been a great lesson in, firstly, having a proper backup system for sure. It has also served as a touchstone to remind me that how I look at a situation can help me or hinder me.
Kelly McGonigal is a big proponent of reframing how we think about stress. She used to tell her clients that they need to watch their stress levels and decrease them. However, after reviewing several key studies, she began to think that it was the fact that one thought stress was bad that made it so!
One of the pieces of research McGonigal cites was from a 1998 survey conducted by the National Center for Health Statistics that asked approximately 29,000 people questions about stress levels, stress management and perceptions about how stress affects health. They then looked at instances of death among survey respondents over the next 8 years.. Survey respondents who reported a lot of stress and who had the perception that stress had a big impact on health had an increased hazard ratio — converted into a 43% increased risk of premature death. However, survey respondents who reported a lot of stress but little to no perception that stress impacted health had the lowest hazard ratio of any group in the survey, even those who felt almost no stress!
That’s a good reminder that how we think about what is happening can impact our body, mind and emotions profoundly. In her book, The Upside of Stress: Why stress is good for you – McGonigal offers a choice of two Mindsets:
“Stress Is Harmful. Experiencing stress depletes my health and vitality. Experiencing stress debilitates my performance and productivity. Experiencing stress inhibits my learning and growth. The effects of stress are negative and should be avoided.”
“Stress Is Enhancing. Experiencing stress enhances my performance and productivity. Experiencing stress improves my health and vitality. Experiencing stress facilitates my learning and growth. The effects of stress are positive and should be utilized.”
Are there any stressful situations in your life that you can look at with this second Mindset? Which do you think is more health-enhancing?