David Baxter PhD
Rethinking Stress Strengthens Stabilityby Robin L. Flanigan, bpHope.com
July 26, 2022
Photo: Nitat Termmee / Moment via Getty Images
Sweaty palms. A racing heart. An upset stomach. Stress just doesn’t do a body good.
While it can cause a host of health problems, it can also sabotage stability by triggering a bipolar mood episode—especially when worry perpetuates thoughts that only make the stress worse.
Here’s the good news: This physical tension can be harnessed and used to our advantage.
“You always think about stress as a really bad thing, but it’s not,” says Daniela Kaufer, professor of integrative biology at the University of California, Berkeley. “Some amounts of stress are good to push you just to the level of optimal alertness, behavioral and cognitive performance.”
So, let’s alter the lens when it comes to stress.
A 2021 study on the topic published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: General found that reappraising stress—assessing it in a different way, in which stress becomes functional and adaptive—helps people reduce anxiety, procrastinate less, and otherwise perform at their best in acute stress situations.
Meanwhile, Susan David, PhD, founder of the Institute of Coaching at McLean, Harvard Medical School, suggests a bit of rephrasing, from identifying with the stress to observing that your body is responding to a stressful situation: “Once you step back, even just a bit, you’ll gain the perspective needed to move forward.”
Step by step. You know the drill, that the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. (Sure, that journey was about taking steps forward, but we can apply it to this situation.)
That first step could be understanding where your stress originates and discovering situations in which you feel out of control or what are needlessly worrying about. From there, you can institute strategies like asking for help, balancing work and play, visualizing positive results, and taking the time to relax.
Longtime bp Magazine columnist Stephen Propst says when it’s properly managed, stress can help us form a healthier mindset to take action and stay on track toward wellness.
“As you successfully manage stress, you manage your mood and improve the overall quality of your life,” says Propst. “No matter what life throws at you, you’ll be prepared to take a deep breath and say, “Hey, it’s nothing to stress out about!
Read “How to Deal with Everyday Stress WITHOUT Sacrificing Your Stability” >>