New Research: The Health Effects of Stress Depend on What You Believe

There has been much research into the ill effects of stress on our health; increased blood pressure, and increased risk of a range of illnesses such as cardiovascular disease and stroke. But, this latest research presented at a TED conference by Psychologist Kelly McGonigal suggests that these ill effects of stress are dependent upon how you view them.

In other words, if you are under a high level of stress but you view that as something that you are able to deal with, you are much less likely to die as a result of the health effects of stress than someone who experiences an equally high level of stress, but views that stress as bad for their health. If you check out the talk from Kelly McGonigal below, you will see that it all seems to be in the psychology…

Another very interesting point that Kelly makes is about the role of the hormone oxytocin. Much has been made of this hormone; it is even known as the ‘cuddle hormone’ as it is known to be released to bring humans closer together. What you may not know is that oxytocin is also released as part of the stress response. This means that when we are under stress our bodies actually want us to seek out the companionship of other human beings and share – a method which has been suggested for years as part of stress management.

Kelly makes a fantastic point at the end of this video; she is asked, if a person is faced with the decision between two jobs, one stressful and one not so stressful, does it then not matter which they choose as long as they view the stress as something they can handle? Her response to this is that studies in health and psychology show we do better doing what we extract the most meaning from. So if the very stressful job is going to be the one that has meaning in our lives, that would probably be the one to go for as long as you see it as stress that you can deal with.

What’s your view on this view of stress? Please let us know in the comments…

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