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Could stress secretly be a motivator?

How often have you heard the phrase “Stress is a killer?” It is something I have heard all my life, and yet I have lived with varying degrees of stress for as long as I can remember. The warning has been given renewed urgency in April, which is Stress Management Month. But there has also been a different view that has emerged over the past few years. This view says that instead of avoiding stress, we should all learn how to manage it more effectively and to our benefit.

In fact, some would argue that a complete absence of stress in your life is unhealthy. Just like a muscle that isn’t used over a prolonged period becomes dystrophic, so also our emotional stress management muscles may forget how to handle even the slightest form of stress. So while too much undue stress can be a killer, a complete absence of stress can be equally fatal it seems.

Then of course there are people who seems to thrive under stress. People like space pioneer Elon Musk is well-known for being stress sponges, currently running four high-pressure businesses, including Space-X. The more pressure Elon is under, the more he seems to excel, even coming up with new innovations along the way. It’s well-known that he was facing bankruptcy after several failures, when he had to decide to either hold on to his last dime, or enter the history books by publically testing his very last rocket. It doesn’t get any more stressful than that. Elon succeeded and these days there are people studying his methods to try and understand not only what drives him, but how he’s able to serially over-achieve under so much pressure.

I must admit that I have a little of whatever that condition is called. I am able to channel and compartmentalise by stresses very effectively. Most of the time! For example, I find that I am most creative and efficient in my writing, the closer to the deadline I am. And it turns out I may have stumbled onto something. In our news you may have heard comment from transformational therapist Shaldon Fitzgerald, who reaffirmed that if not managed correctly, stress can lead to conditions like anxiety and cardiac abnormalities.

The operative thought here is “managed correctly!” This line of thinking has now got some academic credibility in the form of new research, suggesting that like most things in life … stress is only as deadly as you believe it to be. In other words, believing that stress can kill, is actually the thing that may kill you! Subsequently it’s being argued that stress actually has a few positive benefits. That’s what psychologist Kelly McGonigal explores in the TED video above. She says she has had to change her own beliefs about stress being a killer, something she use to advocate to her own patients. The video is wonderfully entertaining and may just change how you view stress … and more importantly, how you manage it in your life.


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