Stress be like a horse that drives you or it can leave you feeling trampled.
The primary difference is perspective.
You might recognize some of the following physical cues:
Accelerated Heart Rate
These observable symptoms are indicators that your Hypothalamus, specifically its Medial Zone, has began to put you into Anti-predatory defensive mode (aka “fight or flight”).
Kelly McGonigal, Stanford Psychologist and author of “The Upside of Stress” had spent years telling people to avoid stress. Stress, after all, has a correlation with heart conditions and other fatal complications. But, after ten years of coaching people away from stress, a study of 30,000 individuals provoked her to reconsider her demonization of stress.
Put simply, she began to observe that people’s perspective towards stress made a world of difference: 43% of people who thought negatively about stress had higher mortality rates than the rest of the study. The people who thought positively about stress had the lowest health risks through the eight years of study.
Kind of like Schrodinger’s Cat, stress is what you think it is.
If you imagine those cues as a crushed heart, your sweat as failure, your ragged breath as weakness, you narrow vision as mortal danger, and your tight stomach as paralysis -- stress will have a negative cumulative effect on you over your lifetime. (Listen to Lisa Barrett on Invisibilia)
But...if you gain a greater perspective on stress and those observable physical cues, you can make a significant shift that transforms stress from a liability to an asset.
The symptoms of stress share many of the biophysical symptoms that accompany Joy, Courage, and Athletic Performance. Think of dancing, karaoke, or swimming.
These three activities are great for your well-being! These activities can accelerate your heart, impact your breathing, and alter your vision…but instead of perceiving imminent doom, you might perceive the following:
Your pulsing heart is your friend, confident in your ability, powering your body and limbs.
Sweat is to keep you cool. So be cool. Stay calm.
Your breath is fuel, oxygen for your furnace. Breath deep, because air is life.
Your altered vision is a super power empowering you to see far, to catch details.
Your stomach. It’s just tight to remind you of the strength in your core, to remind you of your past challenges and your ability to persevere through the present.
With a little rewiring, a little shift in perspective, you can turn threats into opportunity and stress into exhilaration.