Making Friends with Stress

ache-19005_1920Are you stressed yet this semester? Are you stressed because you think you will be stressed this semester? Am I stressing you out?

Whether or not you’re experiencing it at this moment, stress is something we’ll all have to face over and over again in our lives, and if we don’t know how to deal with it, it can be almost crippling.

Personally, stress grips me in the presence of homework, tests, big talks, small talk, finances, papers that need organizing, anything that needs organizing (Don’t even get me started on my closet. Yikes!), and dirty dishes. These things terrify me. And that’s OK. In fact, I’ve realized in my early adult years that most of my fears are normal (although, I have yet to find someone else who’s as terrified of blue whales as I am).

It’s not what we’re afraid of that matters. We can’t permanently prevent events, situations, and obligations that cause us stress. Most of the time, we can’t even prevent the stress response! We can, however, choose how we think about stress and how we act on it.

I’m not going to go over all of the scientific details about how we can change our stress thought process, but I strongly encourage watching this life-changing Ted talk right here by Kelly McGonigal. It’s called, “How to Make Stress Your Friend.”

McGonigal’s research on stress delves into life expectancy and the biology of courage. But what interested me the most was her findings about oxytocin—the “cuddle hormone.” When we feel stressed, our pituitary gland secretes this hormone and causes us to seek support. Being able to talk to people about our troubles doesn’t just help us mentally and emotionally; to our hearts, it’s also physically healing.

So, the next time your heart starts beating fast, and you think you can’t meet the challenge, tell a loved one. Support a loved one. Make a friend, and make friends with stress.

—Sophia Parry