The connection between stress and health has long been debated. Whether you are stressed at work, in your personal relationships or in your overall life in general, too much stress can create excessive worry, interfere with your performance, reduce immune functioning and even take years off of your life in extreme cases. The fact of the matter is that the majority of people view stress as bad – and when you consider the negative mental and physical reactions to excessive stress, it is easy to see why most of us view it as so.
A new study sheds an interesting light on stress and health, claiming that a person’s mindset about stress may be the most important predictor in how it affects them. The results of the groundbreaking study show that if you simply change your beliefs about stress, then stress can actually be a good thing.
Stress is Bad, Stress is Good
Most of us know that excessive stress can leave us feeling depressed and lethargic, among other negative and debilitating symptoms. On the flip side of the coin, stress can also create mental toughness, increase clarity and result in a greater appreciation for our own circumstances. It sounds surprising, but stress can even contribute to a sense of long-lasting confidence resulting from a history of overcoming obstacles. The key factor to remember when it comes to stress and health is that mindset is everything.
Researchers set out to explore the stress mindsets of 400 employees of an international financial institution. For their study on stress and health, researchers divided the subject into two groups. The first group includes those with the stress-is-debilitating mindset. Subjects in this group believe that stress is a bad thing and that it creates negative consequences. The stress-is-debilitating group also believes that stress should be avoided at all costs.
The second group includes people with a stress-is-enhancing mindset. Subjects in this group believe that stress actually improves the learning process and promotes personal growth. It should come to no surprise that the group of subjects with the stress-is-enhancing mindset reported having better health, greater satisfaction in life and superior work performance than the group with the stress-is-debilitating mindset. This connection between stress and health brings exciting innovation to people with all types of stress-related anxiety disorders.
The Meaning of Mindset
There are both mental and physiological factors to consider regarding the meaning of the two mindsets. Mentally, subjects from the stress-is-enhancing mindset proved more likely to use productive strategies in dealing with stress-inducing tasks. This group was also more likely to seek out feedback regarding such tasks. Physiologically, the stress-is-enhancing believers also showed optimal levels of cortisol activity. Optimal cortisol levels serve to keep us more aroused, focused and ready to respond both physically and mentally to the stressors in our lives. Cortisol is always a key factor when dealing with stress and health.
Stress, Health and Happiness
When it comes to stress and health, the message here is clear. While many of us equate the amount of stress we face with our health, happiness and overall effectiveness, it is instead the way we look at stress that may have the greatest influence on our lives. Fortunately, all of us are capable of changing our mindset about stress and health and even those with a stress-is-debilitating mindset can learn to improve their well-being, work performance and overall quality of life through a simple change in perspective.