It turns out that thinking that stress is bad for you is … really bad for you.
In 2013, health psychologist Kelly McGonigal gave an incredible and revolutionary TED Talk about stress.
And in less than 15 minutes, McGonigal proceeded to completely destroy everything that I believed to be true about stress.
The first assumption is that most people these days feel stressed. Okay, that’s true.
But here comes the first shocker: Thinking that stress is bad, actually makes things worse.
It turns out that thinking that stress is bad for you is … really bad for you. Incredibly, she says, over the eight years of the survey, 182,000 people died prematurely from the belief that stress was bad for them. She extrapolates for us: If that estimate is correct, then believing this is so would have been the 15th largest cause of death in the United States.
Now, we are told all the time that we have to “avoid stress” or “de-stress” as if stress were like limescale that needed to be cleaned periodically, or a pothole to swerve around. If you’re like me (a relatively normal woman in the real world where bad sh*t happens), you are gonna stress about stuff. Some of it big stuff, and some of it small stuff. Which brings me to McGonigal’s second incredible point:
We need to change our perceptions of stress.
“The harmful effects of stress on health are not inevitable,” McGonigal says. “How you think and how you act can transform your experience of stress. When you choose to view your stress response as helpful, you create the biology of courage. And when you choose to connect with others under stress, you can create resilience.”
This was the biggest lightbulb moment. That stress should never be handled alone…that it actually drives us to reach out to other people…that stress can create connections, really resonated with me.
We all know that menopause can be a hugely stressful thing. But what if we tried, just for a moment, to stop “avoiding” stress? What if we embraced it?
And what if we used it to reach out and bring us closer to other people?
Well, it would almost make the hot flashes worth it. Almost.