Frenemies with Stress

I am one of those people that go through seasons of stress in my life. And usually (because I can be a little unobservant) I don’t realize I am stressed until my body starts showing symptoms. These can be things such as canker sores during exam season, insomnia multiple times in a week, or stomachaches with certain foods.

I like to call myself a ‘recovering perfectionist,’ because I feel that this is where most of my stress stems from. I like to be productive, to be doing something worthwhile or starting a new project, and if things don’t seem to be progressing along I become stressed. On top of that, I expect myself to do well in school, be active every day, and maintain strong relationships. So yeah, you may see why I feel stressed sometimes…

One thing I have incorporated into my daily routine (or every other day, if we’re being completely honest) is meditation. As someone who took a class in my undergrad based solely around the benefits of relaxation (yes, this was a real class) I know that mediation has huge health benefits. However, it never really felt like something I could get into.

Cue: Headspace
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Headspace is an app with a free ten-day trial of guided mediations. Compared to other guided mediations I found this one super easy to listen to and pretty enjoyable. I was always one of those people that “didn’t have time” to sit still for 10 minutes a day, but I can assure you the benefits of some quiet time can add up in big ways. After completing my ten day trial I purchased a month subscription and was incredible impressed with all the added options: mediation for commuting, walking, eating, as well as guided meditation for upwards of 60 minutes – that’s crazy!

We’re all aware that managing stress is an important life skill, but after watching this TED talk I suddenly realized that there was another approach to take. Psychologist Kelly McGonigal reveals that people have a 43% increased chance of dying if they are stressed and view it as detrimental to their health. That’s pretty dang scary. On the other hand, if you did not view stress as harmful to your health you had no increase in any stress related deaths. So, this begs the question; is it all in our heads?

 

 

By viewing our stress response as something beneficial (or in that it is helping us cope with the stressors in our lives) we can actually see benefits through the release of oxytocin. I won’t get into all the science mumbo jumbo, but if you have 15 minutes to spare then I suggest checking out this TED talk.

“Let’s not get rid of stress, but get better at it”. – Dr. Kelly McGonigal

Stress is really interesting. And it’s kind of awesome that our bodies are built so well to handle it. So maybe instead of fighting it (or putting all of this pressure on myself) I change my attitude to stress a little bit and keep up my Headspace journey. Not only should that help me sleep a little better at night, digest my food a little easier, but hey, it might even get my 43% increased rate of dying down just a little bit. And I think we all have time for that.

How do you manage stress?

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