How to Make Stress Your Friend

Jul 03, 2016

If you can’t beat them, join them.


If you listen to a popular TED Talk by Kelly McGonigal, you’ll realise the above statement can be applicable to your everyday stress. It’s not new to us that stress, whether mild or severe, can have a negative impact on your physical, emotional and mental health. So you can perfectly justify stress being a foe.


Whether we like it or not, stress is and will always be part of our lives. But what if we tell you that you can be friends with it? If you can’t fight off stress, you just might as well make friends. This is what we found out after watching McGonigal’s video.

The Other Side of Stress

Let’s face it. Stress plays a big role on our survival. Those faster heartbeats, quicker breathing, sweating, muscle tightening, sharper vision – all of these are our body’s reaction during stress which are actually helpful to survive an emergency.


If you believe stress is bad for you, then it is bad for you. But Stanford researcher and best-selling author Kelly McGonigal, PhD showed people how to embrace stressful situations as opportunities for growth.


She, too, used to believe that stress was bad. She had been viewing stress as a disease that makes people sick, but now, her belief has changed.


What McGonigal brilliantly communicates is that, we should not change our stress levels but our attitude to stress itself.

Change Your Perception

A study assessed people’s view of stress and correlated against public death records. The people most likely to die were more stressed, but they also viewed stress was bad.


On the other hand, people who were also highly stressed but never viewed it as a bad thing were the least likely group to die.


What the study shows is that it isn’t stress itself that kills people, but the belief that stress is harmful. If you change the way you think about stress, you can also change the way your body responds.

Stress Makes You Social

Our bodies contain a hormone called oxytocin, which is also known as ‘the cuddle hormone’. It is also released as a stress response. Oxytocin levels are high under stressful conditions, such as social isolation and unhappy relationships. During high social stress or pain, it may lead people to seek out more and better social contacts.


In a study conducted at the University of Zurich, oxytocin was shown to regulate interpersonal relationships in a positive way. Whether a romantic relationship or professional partnership, oxytocin can help build trust and intimacy. It also promotes more cooperation and keeps the workplace more harmonious, may it be virtual or a physical office.

Show You Care

McGonigal referenced a study from the University of Buffalo that found that major stressful life events increased an adult’s death risk by 30%. However, if they spend time helping people, whether it be friends, family or community members, there was 0% increase in risk of death. McGonigal said that if you choose to reach out to others under stress, you can create resilience.

How About We Just Tell Ourselves That Stress Is Good For Us?

When you think about stress as a benefit, then it is beneficial, otherwise, it’s not. The outcomes of stress are changed by your mindset. More importantly, it goes beyond a generally positive attitude towards stress. It requires action. It is a change within our belief system and how we see our capabilities that will make the huge difference.

If you apply this, you may develop relaxation response and start to normalise everything stress response has put out of place.
The lesson here is that if we can’t defeat stress, we could at least change the way we think about it. So the next time you find yourself in a stressful situation, try and catch yourself in the moment.

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