How to make friends with stress and make it help you

The term “stress” was introduced into science by the American psychophysiologist Walter Cannon. In his understanding, stress is the body’s reaction to a situation in which there is a struggle for survival. The task of this reaction is to help a person maintain himself in balance with the external environment. In this interpretation, stress is a positive reaction. The term was made world famous by the Canadian pathologist and endocrinologist Hans Selye. Initially, he described it under the name “general adaptation syndrome”, the purpose of which is to activate the body to confront the threat to life and health. And in this approach, stress is also a positive reaction.

Currently, in classical psychology, two types of stress are distinguished: eustress and distress. Eustress is the reaction of the body, in which all body systems are activated to adapt and overcome obstacles and threats. Distress is already a state when the ability to adapt weakens or even disappears under the pressure of overload. It exhausts the organs of the body, weakens the immune system, as a result, a person falls ill. Thus, only one type is “bad” stress, and it develops only if the person has not been able to use the resources of positive stress to overcome difficulties.

Unfortunately, the lack of enlightenment of people has painted the concept of stress exclusively in negative colors. Moreover, many of those who described it in this way proceeded from the good intention of warning about the dangers of distress, but did not talk about eustress. For example, in the United States, a study was conducted that lasted eight years, thirty thousand people participated in it. Each participant was asked: “How much stress did you have to endure last year?” Then they asked the second question: “Do you believe that stress is bad for you?”. Each year, the mortality among study participants was checked. The results were as follows: among people who experienced a lot of stress, mortality increased by 43%, but only among those who considered it dangerous to health. And among people who experienced a lot of stress and at the same time did not believe in its danger, mortality did not increase. An estimated 182 people died because they thought stress was killing them. The researchers concluded that people’s belief in the mortal danger of stress brought him to the 15th leading cause of death in the United States.

Indeed, what a person feels during stress can frighten him: heart rate, breathing rate increases, visual acuity increases, hearing and smell increase. Doctors say that heart palpitations and shortness of breath, which indicates overexertion, are harmful to your health, but the same physiological reactions are observed in humans, for example, during an orgasm or great joy, and yet no one regards orgasm as a threat. The body reacts in the same way when a person behaves boldly and bravely. Few people explain why the body behaves this way during stress. They just stick a label on it that says: “Harmful and dangerous.”

In fact, increased heart rate and breathing during stress is necessary to supply the body with enough oxygen, since it is necessary to speed up the reactions of the body, for example, to run faster, to have more endurance – this is how the body tries to save you from a deadly threat. For the same purpose, the perception of the sense organs is also enhanced.

And if a person treats stress as a threat, then with a rapid heartbeat, the vessels narrow – the same condition of the heart and blood vessels is observed with pain in the heart, a heart attack and a mortal threat to life. If we treat it as a reaction that helps to cope with difficulties, then with a rapid heartbeat, the vessels remain in a normal state. The body trusts the mind, and it is the mind that dictates to the body how to respond to stress.

Stress triggers the release of adrenaline and oxytocin. Adrenaline speeds up the heartbeat. And the action of oxytocin is more interesting: it makes you be more sociable. It is also called the cuddle hormone because it is released when you cuddle. Oxytocin encourages you to strengthen relationships, makes you empathize and support people close to you. It encourages us to seek support, share experiences, and help others. Evolution has laid in us the function to worry about relatives. We save loved ones in order to stop being stressed because of concern for their fate. In addition, oxytocin repairs damaged heart cells. Evolution teaches a person that caring for others allows you to survive during trials. Also, by taking care of others, you learn to take care of yourself. By overcoming a stressful situation or helping a loved one through it, you become many times stronger, more courageous, and your heart healthy.

When you fight stress, it is your enemy. But how you feel about it determines 80% of its effect on your body. Know that thoughts and actions can affect this. If you change your attitude to a positive one, then your body will react differently to stress. With the right attitude, he will become your powerful ally.

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