As I mentioned in part 1, chronic, unmanaged stress is directly linked to physical ill-health and mental health challenges. In fact, if we are constantly stressed about stress, it will become an obstacle on our pathway to dealing with life’s challenges.
But, if stress is an inevitable part of life, is there a solution to this problem? Is there hope?
Thankfully, there is! The key lies in how we choose to manage our stress. Changing our attitude towards stress is essential to healthy mental and physical self-care.
You can choose how you view stress by practicing a healthy stress mindset. And one of the best ways to do this is to see stress as something that enhances rather than diminishes your performance. Visualize the blood vessels around your heart dilating and pumping oxygen and blood to your brain when you are stressed. See this as your body preparing you for positive action so you can overcome the challenge you are facing. Visualize your neurotransmitters being released—see this as your brain helping you focus and think with clarity to react in the best way possible.
Of course, in the moment it can be hard to think of these things, especially when life just seems to be hitting you with everything all at once. This is why I recommend writing down the physical benefits of a healthy reaction to stress and keeping it on you to read when you feel overwhelmed. This can be as simple as a note on your phone or tablet, a Post-It note, a note in your journal, or whatever works for you.
Remind yourself that when you choose to make stress work for you, a lot of great things start happening in the brain and body:
- Blood vessels around the heart dilate, increasing blood and oxygen flow to the brain. This, in turn, results in improved cognitive fluency and clarity of thought, helping us to face and overcome life challenges. This increased blood flow also balances the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems, allowing a number of neurophysiological and genetic processes to work and fuel intellectual growth.
- When we see stress as helping us, a genetic switch is turned on in the hippocampus, increasing our ability to cope with the challenging situation.
- Our immune system improves.
- Inflammation and oxidative stress decrease, which helps improve cell health.
But remember, it takes time to change a mental habit! In fact, it takes around 63 days to do so—your perception of stress will not change overnight. Be patient, and remind yourself how incredible your mind, brain and body are. There will still be times when you fall into toxic stress, and that is totally okay. It is never too late to change your mind and start healing your mind, brain and body. You got this!
For more on stress and mental health, listen to my podcast (episode #460). If you enjoy listening to my podcast, please consider leaving a 5-star review and subscribing. And keep sharing episodes with friends and family and on social media. (Don’t forget to tag me so I can see your posts!).
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2:00 How amazing stress is!
3:20 Why we need to change the way we perceive stress
6:02 How to change our perception of stress
8:20 Stress is an inevitable part of life + the importance of changing how we see stress
10:50 Using mind management to change the way you perceive stress
This podcast and blog are for educational purposes only and are not intended as medical advice. We always encourage each person to make the decision that seems best for their situation with the guidance of a medical professional.