From a Teacher’s Desk #4

August 16, 2019
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From a teacher’s desk …

When you change your mind about stress, you can change your body’s response to it.” Kelly McGonigal.

I have thinking a lot lately about how to manage my stress and came upon some interesting thoughts…

An article on the website of Six Seconds (The Emotional intelligence Network), titled, “Threat or Challenge? The Surprising New Science of How We Think about Stress”, made for an interesting read. There is no doubt that in a high performing school and community such as ours where we strive to be the best version of ourselves, one of the inevitable consequences is that we all experience stress at times.

This fascinating topic saw new research which is covered in Kelly McGonigal’s book, “The Upside of Stress”. In the United States, stress is the 12th leading cause of death. This is because stress causes high blood pressure, heart disease and myriad of other problems. McGonigal states that this only tells half the story about stress. Her central argument comes down to this: how you think about stress matters. “When you change your mind about stress,” McGonigal says, “you can change your body’s response to it.” Our attitudes about stress make it a killer. In the study, a sample of 30,000 people reported feeling high stress AND held a negative view of stress. In this group, participants had a 43% increased risk of premature death. It turns out stressing about stress is what makes stress such a killer!

Stress is a physical and emotional signal. Stress means we care about something and it’s at risk. This feeling is not inherently good or bad; it’s data. It focuses our attention and motivates us to take action.

Our heart rate increases, breathing becomes rapid, and neuro-hormones like adrenalin and oxytocin are released. Stress can give you the energy to get things done and give you the drive to comfort and care for people close to you. Stress can be a benefit if we know how to take advantage of it, and the first step is simple: changing our thinking about our stress response.

People experience stress as either a challenge or a threat. Challenge feelings happen when you feel you have enough resources to cope with the situation. In contrast, when you feel the situation is too demanding, exceeding your resources, you experience threat.

So when your calendar is crammed, your inbox is overflowing, and you feel that sickening state of stress, you can use this new data to take advantage of stress. What if you reframed your response from dread to anticipation?

Rethink and choose your stress response. Your body is gearing up to meet a challenge and boosting your energy.
Pounding heart? – You are preparing for action.
Breathing faster? – You are getting more oxygen to your brain.
Blood surging? – You are dilating your blood vessels to increase flow.

With this shift, your body can experience feelings similar to the conditions of people experiencing joy and courage. Stress is an unshakable part of our lives today; let’s use it to our advantage.

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