Well, first I watched three Ted Talks.
- Guy Winch: Why we all need to practice emotional first aid
- Andy Puddicombe: All it takes is 10 mindful minutes
- Kelly McGonigal: How to make stress your friend
Each of these had some very key takeaways for me, and very different key takeaways for others who have watched them, so I strongly encourage you to take an hour out of your day to learn to love stress. Here is what I learned from these three Ted Talks and how it's helped me not only embrace stress, but thrive when under pressure.
In Emotional First Aid, Guy talks a lot about taking care of your psychological being as much as you take care of your physical being. Like, duh?! Why didn't I think of that? We all spend so much time making sure we are physically fit and healthy that we sometimes forget to check in with ourselves mentally. Guy made a point that we often ruminate on the bad. I'm so upset, I'm so sad, this day is just the worst; and we don't take time to think about the good things, or anything else for that matter, to break up the negativity. Apparently, studies have shown that even spending just 2 minutes thinking about something other than the problem/negativity at hand can change your mood and outlook drastically. Just 2 minutes!
Andy talks a lot about meditation, about taking 10 mindful minutes to yourself each day. I don't meditate, I don't think I'd be very good at it, but I guess I shouldn't bash it until I try it... but 10 mindful minutes doesn't have to be spent sitting on the floor trying to clear your mind completely. Andy talks about how those mindful minutes should be spent taking a step back and looking at the situation and the problems your facing from an outside perspective. Rather than living in them, watch them go by on their own, separate from you. People always say, "walk away, take a break, deep breaths" when you're already stressed, but why aren't we doing anything to prevent the stress in the first place? Apparently, 10 minutes a day to yourself, in the shower or sitting quietly on your couch (not checking your email or watching TV or scanning through Twitter) is a very powerful tool to prevent yourself from getting anxious about a scenario and then getting anxious about being anxious and suddenly you're a ball of stress. AH.
How to make stress your friend was my favorite of the three, although they all bring very different perspectives to the overarching concept of stress. Kelly really covers why you should embrace stress. Shoot ladies, we live in a stress-filled society! Work and kids and in-laws and social engagements and on and on and on, but why does this have to be a bad thing? None of those things on their own are bad (except maybe the in-laws (I KID!)). It turns out, there was a study that followed a bunch of adults around for 8 years. The participants were asked what level of stress they faced over the previous year and whether or not they felt that this level of stress was harmful to their health. 43% of those who experienced high levels of stress had a chance of dying sooner if and only if they also perceived stress as a bad thing. WAIT WHAT?!?! Just thinking stress is harmful to my body is actually why stress is harming my body? Mind Blown. So, to strengthen that point even more, the group that said they had high stress levels, but did not think stress was harmful to their bodies was the healthiest group of them all! Even more so than those who experienced very little stress. What the heck!?
Kelly goes on to explain a bit about how stress can actually be good for you. Clearly, we need to think it can be good for you so we live longer, so give me some proof, show me the money. We can all think of the physical changes our bodies make when they're under stress (and I'm not going to list everything, watch the talk!), our hearts start pounding, we get a little sweaty, our breathing speeds up; apparently these aren't bad things! These things are preparing your body for the challenge you're about to take on. When your heart is pounding, it's preparing you for action; when your breathing speeds up, you're getting more oxygen to your brain. Your body is literally preparing you for battle, helping you tackle the task ahead.
Those were my key takeaways from the Ted Talks and I fully plan to take all of the points into consideration moving forward when I face a hard problem or a stressful situation. Hopefully by taking 10 minutes a day I can prevent stress from taking over my life, but if I can't, I know that so long as I have a good attitude and outlook on stress in general, and how it affects my body, I'll get through it. It's quite literally not going to kill me.
Also, I have always had "works well under pressure" on my resume, but I fully intend on making that a true statement now!
What techniques do you have for preventing stress or overcoming it once it's there? Do you think stress is harmful to your health and try to avoid it at all costs? Or are you one of those people that really does work well under pressure and maybe without knowledge of the above facts you already considered stress a good thing because you are a rock star when you're stressed?!