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In the podcast we offer you today, we look at the positive messages your stress is communicating to you so that you can begin to reap some benefits from your stress.
The idea being, that when you change the way you think about stress, you will change your response to stress, and this will enable you to use the signs of stress that show up in your daily life as a way to help you become healthier and happier. The very same way of thinking is helpful in regard to other signals that your system sends you that you usually think of as being “negative”. For instance, regularly occurring headaches or depression.
When you are ready, scroll down to the Musings section of this newsletter and I will share some of my thoughts regarding how to engage with stress in a life affirming manner.
And when you are done reading…
If you would like to listen to today’s podcast on our site (and you can download it there as well), then please click on this link: The benefits of stress.
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As I often say, “Your system (your somatic intelligence) communicates to you in a language that is at least as sophisticated and complete as the verbal language you speak.” And it is my belief that every message your system communicates to you is meant to be life affirming. Unlike your rational mind, your somatic intelligence does not attempt to comment on your weaknesses or deficiencies.
Your system is always striving to communicate the activities and behaviors you would do best to engage in in the moment. “You have had enough to eat.”, “Slow down and breathe more.”, and perhaps even, “Smile more and appreciate life.” I believe these are the kind of messages your system sends you. But often we take these messages and turn them into negative statements. Messages like “You eat like a pig.”, “You are overwrought and unhappy.”, and “Why are you so damn unhappy.” We take a positive and turn it into a negative.
In regard to stress, the dictionary says- “Stress is a state of mental or emotional strain or tension resulting from adverse or very demanding circumstances.” And even though I find this to be a pretty generally accepted view of stress, I also find this definition to be a one sided view of stress.
I would prefer to say that “Stress is a communication from your system, alerting you to be ready for action, so you can successfully meet the challenges you are facing.”
When we frame stress is this way, we can see that the communication known as “stress” does indeed have a positive intention. It alerts us to the fact that something important requires our attention. And that is good, right?
And recently I have come to understand another important positive message your system is giving you when you feel stressed. Your system is letting you know that you would do well to engage in heartfelt relationships with others.
Invariably when people talk about stress they talk about three hormones- adrenaline, norepinephrine, and cortisol, and cortisol is known as “the stress hormone”. These three hormones interact in the body to create a sense of fight or flight. We could call these hormones the negative side of the coin in regard to stress, and that is the side of the coin that gets looked at the most often. Secrete these hormones on a regular basis and you wear out your system.
But there is another hormone that gets released when the body alerts us to stressful situations, and that hormone is oxytocin. The pituitary gland pumps out oxytocin when stressful conditions are perceived, and at other times as well.
Two nicknames for oxytocin are “the love hormone”, and “the cuddle hormone”.
So although oxytocin is secreted when you start to experience stress, perhaps most importantly it is also secreted at various times when intimacy and human bonding is experienced or desired. When oxytocin is secreted it leads people to crave physical contact and be in supportive relationships with others.
Beyond that oxytocin is also an anti-inflammatory, and it helps heart cells regenerate and heal from stress induced activity.
Oxytocin is the positive side of the coin in regard to stress. When we perceive stress we release oxytocin along with the other hormones mentioned, and when oxytocin is released into the system it leads us to crave human connection, and the desire to care for others, and it also helps us to heal our heart.
So this is the side of the coin I would like to orient you to look at:
When you are feeling stressed you can ask yourself- How can I go about being in relationship with others as a way to relieve my stress?
When we feel stressed we tend to feel separate from others and a sense of being out of control. Yet when we are engaged in supportive relationships with others our stress tends to lessen because we feel that we are not alone, and that we have a network of people we can call on for support.
So, if you would like to understand more about how to tap into the potential benefits of stress, please have a listen to our podcast.