Stressing to a friend


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Complete your formatives, study for your summative next class and your retake on Thursday, and write your English essay for Friday. Oh, and don’t forget to make sure you get a good night’s sleep. I think it’s safe to say we’ve all experienced something along those lines. Caught up in all the work you have to do, you check the clock only to find out that it’s 2:04 AM, and you’re wondering what you’ve been doing with your time. That is to say, stress, as defined by APS (Australian Psychological Society), is a feeling of being overwhelmed, worried or tense. Whether you’re a student, a teacher, or administrator, stress is part of our daily lives. As a result of stress, some may say we have no control, and unfortunately being way too stressed is extremely unhealthy. Thus, how can we make it healthy?

After spending months debating with others about how bad stress is and searching for ways to relieve stress, I came across a TED talk called “How to make stress your friend” by Kelly McGonigal, a health psychologist, that completely changed the way I view stress. McGonigal talks about how we’ve been taught to see stress as the enemy, capable of messing with our healthbe it a cold or cardiovascular disease. She was one of the first psychologists to see stress under a more positive light and has researched how to make it your friend. McGonigal conducted a study that made me rethink the entire existence of stress. She tracked the stress level of 30,000 adults in the United States for eight years. She would ask each participant: how much stress have you experienced in the past year? Those that experienced a lot of stress had a 43% chance of dying, however, the most fascinating part of this data is equivalent to those who believed stress is bad for you. In other words, if you’ve experience a lot of stress in the past year or believe stress is unhealthy you have a 43% chance of dying. Crazy right?

Stress is all about preparing your body. “Your body is energized, preparing you to meet this challenge,” McGonigal affirmed. As part of the experiment participants were put under extreme pressure. She asked her participants to view stress as something helpful, once put under a stressful environment. Surprisingly, their heart rates decreased considerably. Also, their blood vessels weren’t as clogged as they would normally have been with an elevated stress level. Believing stress is helpful made the participants less stressed, anxious and more focused.

Until recently, I always saw stress as my enemy. After watching Kelly McGonigal’s TED talk, I am making small efforts each day to change my perspective. I decided to take on the challenge of believing stress is helpful this past semester. I’ve noticed I’m no longer freaking out over every little assignment, I’m more confident when presenting and writing tests. Breathing practices have helped me center myself. When I sit for a test, everyone around me is cramming last minute information, while I wait patiently and foster positive thoughts. I believe that I studied and that I will do well. The same goes for a presentation. I focus on my breathing and make sure my mind is set on the assignment at hand; I forget about everything else. Don’t let stress dominate you. If you studied, you know the material. No stress.