When is Stress Harmful?
Did you know that experts place stress on a par with smoking as far as being injurious to health is concerned?
Evolutionarily, primates have evolved to release adrenaline and glucocorticoid hormones - the so-called ‘stress response’ - when threatened by predators. In the past, the likelihood of being eaten by a tiger or crocodile would raise our heart rate, prime our muscles and prepare our body to fight or flee.
In the modern world, we are not likely to have to deal with wild predators much anymore - but we have become conditioned to react to psychosocial stress instead. These include the unbearable stress at the fear of being passed over for a promotion or the prospect of meeting a new partner’s parents at Thanksgiving.
Most of us are not aware of what chronic stress does to our minds and bodies. However, to be ignorant about stress and its effects creates fear, which is mainly responsible for the adverse effects on our health.
In reality, it isn’t stress that kills people - it’s how they handle it.
According to at least one study, encouraging a positive view toward stress reduced cortisol production - which manages the stress response - in people in stressful situations.
Another study showed a 30% increase in people’s risk of dying for every major stressful experience, such as financial difficulties and family crises. However, people who respond to such crises with the desire to care for others had their risk drop to a stunning 0%.
Health experts believe that’s because caring creates resilience - the ability to meet with life’s crises with creativity, hope, and connection.
The stress hormone oxytocin primes people to seek out and link up with one another, to feel and express compassion and a caring attitude.
When oxytocin is released, we are motivated to connect with others - to surround ourselves with other people who care about us, rather than run off into isolation. And even though it’s a hormone released during stress, oxytocin protects our heart from the effects of stress.
In other words, we can use a more positive approach to retrain our thought processes and protect ourselves from the harmful effects of stress by asking, “What can I learn from this? How can I make my life richer and fuller by embracing this moment, instead of denying it and suppressing my feelings?”
Source: When is Stress Harmful?