Feeling overly busy, tired and irritable? Eating too much or too little? These are all signs we may be suffering from the bugbear of modern life: stress. But what if there was a positive way to look at stress?
We all have moments in our lives where we are consumed with a dread that seems never ending. A slow building, often overwhelming sense that everything may just be a little too much, is an all-too-common calling card of stress. Even though it can be difficult to distance yourself from those thoughts at the time, it is also important to get to the bottom of why you are stressed in the first place.
It therefore seems useful, if not crucial, to have other ways of thinking about stress that can optimise our health. It is, after all, not the stress itself, but the way we view it that matters.
Stress is a given in life and the way to respond to it is succinctly summarised by health psychologist Kelly McGonigal: “Chasing meaning is better for your health than trying to avoid discomfort. The best way to make decisions is to go after what creates meaning in your life and then trust yourself to handle the stress that follows.”
So can scheduling an allocated ‘time to stress’ be beneficial for our mental health in the long run? Here are our top tips and reminders to help you reduce your stress load and rethink your mentality when it comes to worrying.
A lot of the time we stress about things we cannot control, likewise we get anxious about events or trials that we may face in the future. By reminding yourself that the stress you feel, is not relevant to your current situation, you can reclaim the power to let that feeling go and tackle that hurdle when you come to it.
Allocate your worry time
By setting aside allocated ‘worry time’ we are forcing ourselves to reconsider what it is that makes us stressed. If you find your mind wandering to the danger zone, quickly remind yourself that those thoughts are only allowed during their allocated time. By simply saying to yourself “not yet”, you will find that when it comes time to actually worry, things will become more simple and easier to navigate. You will also be surprised at just how quickly those negative thoughts vanish when they are given the time to really be addressed in a calm and collected state.
Remember – stress makes us social
Another positive feature of stress goes against the received wisdom that stress makes us withdraw.
In her TED talk “Make stress your friend”, health psychologist Kelly McGonigal discusses an underappreciated aspect
of the neurohormone oxytocin, which she talks about as being “as much a part of stress response as adrenaline.”
Oxytocin is pumped out from our pituitary gland when we are stressed and motivates us to seek support by telling someone how we feel instead of bottling up our feelings.
Through oxytocin, our stress response gives us the biological mechanism to create resilience by connecting with those who care about us and who are close to us.