Stress is one of the great silent killers of modern times. In a study of 30,000 American adults, researchers found that people who experienced a lot of stress in the previous year had a 43 percent increased risk of dying. But that was only true for people who also believed that stress is harmful to health. On the contrary, people who experienced a lot of stress but did not view stress as harmful were not more likely to die. In fact, they had the lowest risk of dying of anyone in the study, even lower than people who had relatively little stress. Researchers concluded from this study that the death rate caused by stress does not come from stress itself, but the belief that stress is bad for health.
Psychologist Kelly McGonigal discussed that shifting our mindset towards stress can make us happier. When you change your mind about stress, you can change your body’s response to stress.
For instance, Anna is the new manager who is asked to handle a project. However, Anna finds it challenging to encourage her team to be solid and collaborative. Then, she was assigned to finish the project earlier because the client does not want to wait long. At this rate, Anna might feel her heart pounding faster and breaking out into a sweat. The pressure Anna feels makes her more stressful as she can barely handle her daily routine. Consequently, there will also be a physical change here as a result of anxiety that shows Anna cannot cope very well with the pressure. If this is going in a longer period of time, Anna might find herself bedridden.
However, Anna does not need to be bedridden if she could cope with stress. McGonigal mentioned that if as an individual you can make stress as a friend, there is a likely chance that not only can you cope with a difficult situation, but your body can also be healthier.
In her research, McGonigal explained that to shift the side of stress to be healthier, there is a hormone called oxytocin. This hormone primes humans to do things that strengthen the close relationship and it makes us crave for physical contact with friends and family. In other words, oxytocin can enhance the empathy feeling of an individual.
Oxytocin is also called a stress hormone. It does not only act on your brain but also on the body. One of the main roles of this hormone is to protect the cardiovascular system from the effects of stress. Oxytocin helps blood vessels stay relaxed during stress and strengthen the heart. Once it works this way, stress response is no longer harmful to the body but it can build more resilience for your stress.
How to shift the response? McGonigal explained that oxytocin can be turned from killing into helping individuals manage stress by enhancing human connection. Sleep Disorders and Sleep Deprivation study that tracked 1,000 adults showed that those who have a personal and professional stressful life have a 30 percent risk of dying. Yet, this was not true for everyone. The study further explained that those who spent time caring for others showed absolutely no stress-related increase in dying.
In conclusion, caring creates resilience. Resilience turns stress into a friend. Hence, stressful life would no longer be a higher risk of death in the workplace because it can be transformed into a more productive strategy, such as allowing employees to volunteer, help a donation or charity event, or create a new “caring” session to discuss the wellbeing of each member.