Statistics about the havoc that stress wreaks on people’s health and wellbeing fill the news and social media. There are any number of steps, tips and tricks on how to decrease or eliminate stress in the workplace.
But what if we looked at stress in a different way; as something that is necessary for the evolution of our species and the progress of humanity?
Daniela Kaufer, a professor at UC Berkeley, has published findings that support this point of view:
“The prevailing idea in our culture is that stress is bad,” she explains. “People complain about being stressed out. But we’re learning that moderate amounts of stress have powerful benefits.
“The stress response is designed to help us react when something potentially threatening happens, to help us deal with it and learn from it. Our research shows that moderate, short-lived stress can improve alertness and performance and boost memory.”
The Daily Telegraph reports on a US study that tracked 30,000 adults for eight years and asked people: “How much stress have you experienced in the past year?” The researchers also asked: “Do you believe that stress is harmful to your health?” They then used public death records to find out who among the participants had died.
The researchers discovered a key distinction among those who had experienced a lot of stress. In that group, those who believed their stress was damaging were 43 per cent more likely to have died over the study period; those who did not worry about the great stress they were under were not only less likely to have died, but were also less likely to have met their demise than those who experienced relatively little stress.
“When you change your mind about stress, you can change your body’s response to stress,” Dr Kelly McGonigal, Stanford University psychology lecturer and author of the bestseller The Upside of Stress, told the newspaper.
“So rather than try to slow your pounding heart, you can view it as your body giving you energy, preparing you to meet the imminent challenge,” she added.
Understanding stress in this way can help put it in a more positive light, but if you face considerable stress every day, taking practical steps to alleviate it is also recommended. Here are some examples of the ways colleagues here at Orbium find to clear their minds.
Alberto, Senior Consultant, Geneva:
I listen to old Latino and Caribbean songs and make small movements with my feet and hands to feel the rhythm. Part of my mind flies back to the Caribbean islands where I lived years ago.
Nicolas, Associate Consultant, Geneva:
To de-stress, I usually play video games, racing games in particular, or I listen to music on the couch.
Alexis, Associate Consultant, Luxembourg:
My usual stress reliever is to put my sports shoes on and go running outdoors. Ideally I would play rugby in the cold, get hurt and covered in mud; however, I can go for a run anytime I want.