Got Stress? How You Think About It Can Kill You!

stress Getting back to work after the holidays, a common theme I heard from people was that they felt “slammed back into reality and boy, it’s stressful!” All those items that were put off until after the holiday break, along with getting things put in place for a new year were really piling up.

We’ve all heard the idiom, “Mind over Matter,” which is basically about the power of the mind to control and influence the body and the physical world.

I think our minds are the most powerful organ in our bodies and we often underestimate how it influences our well-being.

I recently viewed a Ted Talk from Kelly McGonigal that proves this through a scientific study. It’s pretty amazing, so please take the 14.5 minutes out of your super-stressful day to watch it! It may save your life!

This study tracked 30,000 adults in the U.S. for eight years and ask them, “How much stress have you experienced in the last year?” They also asked, “Do you believe that stress is harmful for your health?”

By using death records, they found that people who experienced a lot of stress in the previous year had a 43% increased risk of dying. However, that was only true for the people who also believed that stress is harmful for your health.

Those who experienced a lot of stress but did NOT view stress as harmful had the lowest risk of dying of anyone in the study, including the people who had relatively little stress.

Here are some of my favorite tidbits from the research:

  • When you change your mind about stress, you change your body’s response to stress. If you are able to view your body’s stress responses, (e.g., heart racing, high energy/adrenaline) as helpful, then you tap into the benefits your body is naturally making available to you. Your body is arming you with the boost needed to deal with what is stressing you out, so leverage what going on inside. Interestingly, it’s the same chemical make up as seen when someone is demonstrating courage or experiencing joy.
  • Stress makes you social. A stress hormone, Oxytocin, is released just like Adrenaline. Oxytocin is also known as the “cuddle hormone” as it causes you to crave connection with others. Your body equips you with chemicals that make you want to share what you’re going through with another person and seek support and comfort. That support gives you strength to soldier on!
  • Quit being so self-absorbed. You think you’ve got it bad? Get over yourself and take a look around. Chances are there is someone else in a tougher situation who could really benefit from your help. Guess what, they won’t be the only one benefiting … YOU will get a huge boost as well. ¬†Remember our little hormone buddy, Oxytocin? Guess what, your body is flooded with this little guy when you help another person and badda-boom, badda-bing, you’re creating resilience to stress! Don’t you love it when that happens?

My colleague, Betsy Winkler, recently posted a blog about your frame of reference. ¬†As she noted, your frame of reference is like the invisible pair of glasses you put on every day. It shapes everything you see and do. Maybe it’s time to see the positive side of stress.

So remember, mind over matter and change the way you view stress. Chances are, you’ll live a longer, happier life!

Martha Duesterhoft is a Partner with PeopleResults. Follow her on Twitter @mduesterhoft or connect via email at