Rethinking Stress. Given that it’s not stress itself but the way most of us think about stress that is harmful - do you need to rethink stress?
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These short podcast episodes are taken from our [email protected] session recordings with Debbie Hindle.
Our fourth episode Rethinking Stress teaches you how to change the way you view stress.
Watch the recording and download the presentation here.
Intro: Hi everyone, welcome to the ADCET Podcast – supporting you – supporting students. We would like to acknowledge the aboriginal and Torres Strait islander peoples who are the traditional custodians of the lands on which this recording is taking place. This podcast is the fourth from our series of bite-size sessions [email protected] to help you recharge. This session – Rethinking Stress teaches you how to how change the way you view stress. Make sure you check out our show notes for links to the session recording and presentation slides. Enjoy.
Debbie: We all know about stress, but do we know about the different ways we think about stress? What are the messages that you hear about stress when you talk about stress when you hear about stress being talked about, on the media, if you did a Google search on stress, do you want to write a few things in the chat, just share some of the messages you hear about stress. I actually Googled it the other day when I was preparing for Wednesday's session and it was like stress is the number one public enemy, yeah and we are told that it can be harmful to our health, we also get told everyone experiences it but on the same hand it can be harmful for our health, we need it to get things done so there is that positive slant on it again. But often we are told we need to manage our stress you go on stress management courses, you need to avoid stress, minimalise it as much as possible because after all it is public enemy number 1. But what if it wasn't stress itself but in part the way that we think about stress that could be harmful. So a big study and this study was done by Kelly McGonigal and Alia Crum and they are both from Stanford University and they took 30,000 people over a period of eight years and asked them two questions, the first question they asked was how much stress have you experienced in the previous year, the second question they've asked was do you believe that stress was harmful to your health. Then what they did was they looked at the public death records and not a great research project, but they looked at the public death records and wanted to know the differences, they wanted to know if thinking about stress changed the outcomes or if the amount of stress that people had changed the outcomes and this graph represents the actual death rate. So if people experienced no or little stress in the previous year the death rate didn't change much according to if they thought stress was harmful for their health or if they thought stress wasn't harmful for their health. Though if anything it was a little bit if you believe that stressed was not harmful for your health you were at least likely to die. I should say this is holding all other factors into account such as previous health conditions, other health conditions, so it's just really looking at the effect of stress and your thoughts about stress. Then they looked at those people who had a lot of stress in the previous year and yeah you were more likely to die if you had a lot of stress in the previous year and that shows by the orange line so it's higher if you had a lot of stress in the previous year so you're more likely to die, the death rate was higher but if you believe that stress was not harmful to your health you were less likely to die if you had stress in the previous year. In fact you were less likely to die even compared to those people who had no or little stress in their life in the previous year. So it seems that stress the way we think about stress can change those health outcomes. And another study about Alia Crum found that, her study was with bankers, financial workers in the midst of the GFC so the most stressful time for finance workers and a lot of them were experiencing headaches back aches, sleepless nights stomach upsets, all the physical symptoms we think of when we think of stress and she took some of them through a rethinking stress training program and those who went through that program were less likely to experience those stress symptoms so their headaches disappeared, back aches disappeared stomach aches disappeared and they started to sleep well again compared to people that didn't go through rethinking stress training. So it seems that the way that we think about stress can affect our body in real ways. So when we change our mind about stress we can actually change our body too. So Kelly McGonigal says one way to think about stress is rather than thinking about it as dangerous or harmful is to think about it's our body's way of telling us our heart is in something that something important to us is at stake and in fact if we don't stress, if we don't care about things then we're not likely to be stressed about things. Stress is a sign that our life is meaningful and in fact if you took away all the times in your life that you experienced stress you probably take away all the times in your life that gave your life meaning and purpose. So stress simply put is a sign that our heart's in it. And stress is our body's way of giving us the energy and the resources to stand up and take action, reach out and ask for help if we need it and reach out and connect with other people. So it then leaves us with that response to either be courageous or be connected. So our body stress response, so if you think of that cortisol the adrenalin, the fight and flight response we often have where we feel the butterflies, the heart is pumping blood racing that's the energy we need to stand up and be courageous, so stand up for whatever is at stake to speak up and show that we want things to change, we want things to be different. And also when the other stress hormone that's often not talked about much but when I did this training with some honours psych students they said they did mention oxytocin but not what it was about. Oxytocin is also known as the cuddle hormone, it's what we have when we connect with people it enables us to really reach out and connect and feel good about our relationships so oxytocin is another stress hormone that's released and when we the good thing about oxytocin it actually protects and heels our cardiovascular system from the cortisol and adrenalin pumping through so if nothing else if we release our oxytocin and reach out and connect or ask for help or go and help other people that's protecting our cardiovascular system. But also changing our mind about stress, instead our body shows the same reaction as if it's the, if our body is going through moments of courage and joy so it's that biology of courage and joy Kelly McGonigal talks about is one we can choose if we reframe our thinking about stress. So we can choose those body stress responses. When you go to a stressful time it's okay, what response do I want to choose here, how do I want my body so respond, what is my body giving me the energy to do and do I need to stand up do I need to reach out do I need to help other people. So rather than avoiding stress or managing stress, it's getting better at handling stress. So it's acknowledging our stress when we are feeling it, not pretending it doesn't exist or over exaggerating it but noticing it and one way to do that without getting attached to it and getting caught up in it to say rather than I am stressed saying I'm noticing that I'm stressed at the moment or feeling stressed, so it just takes us one step back from I am stressed. I'm not stressed, I'm more than stressed, I'm just feeling stressed or noticing I'm feeling stressed right now. But if you can find specific words to describe your stress even better. Because stress is really hard to do something about it seems to become this blanket word but if I go instead I'm noticing that I'm feeling overwhelmed right now, I'm noticing I'm feeling there's a lot on my plate at the moment I can do something about that, I can take some action, I can use my biology of courage to take some action, I am noticing that there's a lot of changes happening at the moment, ah, that gives me something to talk about and to talk to my supervisor about. Consider what is at stake and why does it matter to you. And I'm stressed about something because I care about it. So what am I stressed about here and what do I care about. So I'm stressed about this because I care about it. I'm stressed about having so much work to do because I care about delivering a good service to the students I work with. I'm stressed about all these changes that are happen be or I'm feeling overwhelmed by the amount of change because I care about I have the resources that I need to do my work. And then choose how you might have an enhancing stress mindset, so rather than stress be debilitating it be enhancing my body's resources to either choose courage or choose connection. What's the opportunity to learn and grow from that. I can also choose that. So this is a difficult situation, is it giving me a chance to learn and grow. How can that help me get better at handling stress and get better at handling other situations when things are at stake. Kelly McGonigal's got a great TED Talk called how to make stress your friend and she actually kind of shows you some videos about the body's response and how choosing the biology of courage and joy can protect your heart systems and your cardiovascular system and also how oxytocin can also protect your cardiovascular system. And Alia Crum from Stanford University has put her rethinking stress course online totally free so you can pop in and do that, even if you don't do the course you can use some great resources and note that ongoing stress can be damaging and harmful, it's not dismissing that totally altogether but knowing that stress can also be enhancing and trying to choose that enhancing time of stress is much more helpful for our wellbeing. Thank you.
Outro: We just wanted to thank you again for listening to our podcast. If you are loving our podcasts please subscribe to our channel so you can keep up to date with our latest episodes, we would also appreciate if you could leave us a review. If you are after more great content you can head over to our socials and website - www.adcet.edu.au. Our next bite sized session will be on Sharing good news - How you listen to good news can have more impact on your relationships then how you listen to bad news. Build trust and rapport with Active Constructive Listening.