Quick poll - which do you think is more true?
1. Stress is something that is healthy and promotes health?
2. Stress is something that deteriorates health?
Turns out that whichever answer you selected, is right. Huh? What does that mean? There are studies that are showing that how YOU think stress impacts YOU (as in promotion to your health or harmful to your health) reflect HOW stress actually impacts you. There is a lot of power behind how you interpret stress in your life.
If you trended towards #2, that doesn't mean your doomed to poor health and an earlier death. You can shift the way you think of stress, to change the negative connotation to a positive one. For example, the next time you're getting nervous before a presentation or public speaking opportunity - re-frame how you're thinking about the way your body is responding. "My hands are getting sweaty to get me ready for this presentation" or "The butterflies in my stomach are getting me excited for my presentation" instead of thinking about those physical feelings of stress in a negative way. While this seems like a simple mindset shift, it is definitely one of those things that is easier said, than done.
This concept is called Arousal reappraisal and it can help you shift your response to stressors, especially those that you can't escape or avoid, and use the response to promote health rather than harm it. Personally I found this concept really empowering, we have the ability to change the way (some) stress impacts us.
Here's a flow for how it works, with A representing the normal negative stress response and B representing what happens when you redirect, and use Arousal reappraisal, in a stressful situation.
So what do you think? Is this something that you think you'll try? I can see this being really helpful in performance-related situations, even a great way to redirect and re-frame before a race or test. This approach won't help with chronic stress, but it can help you better tackle acute stress episodes, now the hardest part will be remembering to use it.
In the post above I'm summarizing some information I found in an article from the Association of Psychological Science, Improving Acute Stress Responses: The Power of Reappraisal. Feel free to follow the link to read the full article/study recap.