Change Your Mind about Stress: The Power of Mindset

15.06.2018 |

Episode #1 of the course How to be good at stress by Dr. Kimberlee Bethany Bonura


Hi, I’m Dr. Kimberlee Bethany Bonura. Welcome to How to Be Good at Stress! Our goal in this ten-day course is to help you learn the tools you need to become resilient in the face of stress, manage your reactions during stressful situations, and learn how to effectively rest and recover.

Let’s start with a basic definition of stress.


Defining Stress

From a physical and mechanical perspective, stress is a physical pressure, pull, or other force exerted on one thing by another. From a psychological perspective, stress is about our response to the world around us. In other words, stress is something we feel in response to our environment when something happens to someone or something we care about. It is accompanied by physical and physiological symptoms, such as a racing heart or a churning stomach, and by psychological symptoms, like worry.

A large-scale survey of American adults asked people to rate how much they agreed with the statement, “Taking all things together, I feel my life is meaningful.” People with high levels of stress reported higher levels of meaning. The study authors concluded that “people with very meaningful lives worry more and have more stress than people with less meaningful lives.”

You’ve heard for years that stress is bad for you, and that to promote health and well-being, you need to learn how to manage stress, reduce stress, and even eliminate stress. I want you to shift your perspective and come to understand: Stress is necessary and vital for your life. Having stress in your life means you have things, people, and work you care about. You have a meaningful life and stress comes along with that. Together, we’ll learn to be good at stress so you can enjoy your meaningful life.


The Power of Mindsets

You may wonder whether a brief ten-day email course can really make a difference in your life. Science says it can. We’ll be working from the perspective of mindset theory: the notion that your perspective on life can drastically affect how you approach everything else in your world, including long-term outcomes. Mindset theory research has found that simple, brief interventions can have lasting impact. For instance, research with first-generation minority college students reveals that a single intervention can boost retention and graduation rates more than scholarships. When students were taught to see their own potential, they were able to achieve at higher levels.

In this course, you’ll be taught to see how you’re good at stress and how you can further improve and develop your capacity to thrive with stress, and you will achieve long-term improvements in your relationship with stress.

Mindset researchers have found that there are two basic mindsets about stress:

1. Mindset One is that stress is harmful: Stress makes you sick, stress is overwhelming, stress creates negative effects, and you should avoid it.

2. Mindset Two is that stress is enhancing: Stress enhances performance and productivity, it facilitates learning and growth, and it has positive effects that you can channel.

Your stress mindset determines how stress impacts your health and even your risk of premature death. In a research study that tracked 30,000 Americans, the individuals who had high levels of stress AND who believed that stress was harmful to their health had a 43% increased risk of premature death eight years later. The people who had high levels of stress and did not view stress as harmful had the lowest risk of premature death—lower, even, than those who had low levels of stress.

Absorb that: High stress is only harmful for your health if you believe it is harmful for your health.

Are you ready to choose Mindset Two, that stress is enhancing? Are you ready to shift your perspective? Are you ready to embrace the idea that your relationship with stress can improve your performance and increase your enjoyment of your life?

Your task: For the rest of today, whenever you start to feel stressed, worried, or overwhelmed, repeat this mantra: “I am good at stress.” Begin with that mindset, and together, we’ll make it your new reality.

Tomorrow, we’ll learn how challenging yourself is a good stress that builds resilience.


Recommended reading

De-stressing Stress: The Power of Mindsets and the Art of Stressing Mindfully


Recommended book

The Upside of Stress: Why Stress Is Good for You and How to Get Good at It by Kelly McGonigal


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