How to make stress your friend | Kelly McGonigal

How to make stress your friend | Kelly McGonigal

I have a confession to make. But first, I want you to make
a little confession to me. In the past year,
I want you to just raise your hand if you’ve experienced
relatively little stress. Anyone? How about a moderate amount of stress? Who has experienced a lot of stress? Yeah. Me too. But that is not my confession. My confession is this: I am a health psychologist, and my mission is to help people
be happier and healthier. But I fear that something
I’ve been teaching for the last 10 years
is doing more harm than good, and it has to do with stress. For years I’ve been telling people,
stress makes you sick. It increases the risk of everything
from the common cold to cardiovascular disease. Basically, I’ve turned stress
into the enemy. But I have changed my mind about stress, and today, I want to change yours. Let me start with the study
that made me rethink my whole approach to stress. This study tracked 30,000 adults
in the United States for eight years, and they started by asking people, “How much stress have you
experienced in the last year?” They also asked, “Do you believe that stress
is harmful for your health?” And then they used public death records
to find out who died. (Laughter) Okay. Some bad news first. People who experienced a lot of stress
in the previous year had a 43 percent increased risk of dying. But that was only true for the people who also believed that stress
is harmful for your health. (Laughter) People who experienced a lot of stress but did not view stress as harmful were no more likely to die. In fact, they had the lowest risk of dying of anyone in the study, including people
who had relatively little stress. Now the researchers estimated
that over the eight years they were tracking deaths, 182,000 Americans died prematurely, not from stress, but from the belief
that stress is bad for you. (Laughter) That is over 20,000 deaths a year. Now, if that estimate is correct, that would make
believing stress is bad for you the 15th largest cause of death
in the United States last year, killing more people than skin cancer,
HIV/AIDS and homicide. (Laughter) You can see why this study freaked me out. Here I’ve been spending
so much energy telling people stress is bad for your health. So this study got me wondering: Can changing how you think
about stress make you healthier? And here the science says yes. When you change your mind about stress, you can change
your body’s response to stress. Now to explain how this works, I want you all to pretend
that you are participants in a study designed to stress you out. It’s called the social stress test. You come into the laboratory, and you’re told you have to give a five-minute impromptu speech
on your personal weaknesses to a panel of expert evaluators
sitting right in front of you, and to make sure you feel the pressure, there are bright lights
and a camera in your face, kind of like this. (Laughter) And the evaluators have been trained to give you discouraging,
non-verbal feedback, like this. (Exhales) (Laughter) Now that you’re sufficiently demoralized, time for part two: a math test. And unbeknownst to you, the experimenter has been trained
to harass you during it. Now we’re going to all do this together. It’s going to be fun. For me. Okay. (Laughter) I want you all to count backwards from 996 in increments of seven. You’re going to do this out loud, as fast as you can, starting with 996. Go! (Audience counting) Go faster. Faster please. You’re going too slow. (Audience counting) Stop. Stop, stop, stop. That guy made a mistake. We are going to have to start
all over again. (Laughter) You’re not very good at this, are you? Okay, so you get the idea. If you were actually in this study, you’d probably be a little stressed out. Your heart might be pounding, you might be breathing faster,
maybe breaking out into a sweat. And normally, we interpret
these physical changes as anxiety or signs that we aren’t coping
very well with the pressure. But what if you viewed them instead as signs that your body was energized, was preparing you to meet this challenge? Now that is exactly
what participants were told in a study conducted
at Harvard University. Before they went
through the social stress test, they were taught to rethink
their stress response as helpful. That pounding heart
is preparing you for action. If you’re breathing faster,
it’s no problem. It’s getting more oxygen to your brain. And participants who learned to view
the stress response as helpful for their performance, well, they were less stressed out,
less anxious, more confident, but the most fascinating finding to me was how their physical
stress response changed. Now, in a typical stress response, your heart rate goes up, and your blood vessels
constrict like this. And this is one of the reasons
that chronic stress is sometimes associated
with cardiovascular disease. It’s not really healthy to be
in this state all the time. But in the study, when participants viewed
their stress response as helpful, their blood vessels
stayed relaxed like this. Their heart was still pounding, but this is a much healthier
cardiovascular profile. It actually looks a lot like what happens in moments of joy and courage. Over a lifetime of stressful experiences, this one biological change could be the difference between a stress-induced
heart attack at age 50 and living well into your 90s. And this is really what the new
science of stress reveals, that how you think about stress matters. So my goal as a health
psychologist has changed. I no longer want
to get rid of your stress. I want to make you better at stress. And we just did a little intervention. If you raised your hand and said you’d had a lot of stress
in the last year, we could have saved your life, because hopefully the next time
your heart is pounding from stress, you’re going to remember this talk and you’re going to think to yourself, this is my body helping me
rise to this challenge. And when you view stress in that way, your body believes you, and your stress response
becomes healthier. Now I said I have over a decade
of demonizing stress to redeem myself from, so we are going to do
one more intervention. I want to tell you about one of the most under-appreciated
aspects of the stress response, and the idea is this: Stress makes you social. To understand this side of stress, we need to talk about a hormone, oxytocin, and I know oxytocin has already gotten
as much hype as a hormone can get. It even has its own cute nickname,
the cuddle hormone, because it’s released
when you hug someone. But this is a very small part
of what oxytocin is involved in. Oxytocin is a neuro-hormone. It fine-tunes
your brain’s social instincts. It primes you to do things that strengthen close relationships. Oxytocin makes you crave physical contact
with your friends and family. It enhances your empathy. It even makes you more willing
to help and support the people you care about. Some people have even suggested
we should snort oxytocin… to become more compassionate and caring. But here’s what most people
don’t understand about oxytocin. It’s a stress hormone. Your pituitary gland pumps this stuff out as part of the stress response. It’s as much a part
of your stress response as the adrenaline that makes
your heart pound. And when oxytocin is released
in the stress response, it is motivating you to seek support. Your biological stress response is nudging you to tell
someone how you feel, instead of bottling it up. Your stress response wants
to make sure you notice when someone else
in your life is struggling so that you can support each other. When life is difficult, your stress response wants you
to be surrounded by people who care about you. Okay, so how is knowing this side
of stress going to make you healthier? Well, oxytocin doesn’t only act
on your brain. It also acts on your body, and one of its main roles in your body is to protect your cardiovascular system
from the effects of stress. It’s a natural anti-inflammatory. It also helps your blood vessels
stay relaxed during stress. But my favorite effect on the body
is actually on the heart. Your heart has receptors for this hormone, and oxytocin helps heart cells regenerate and heal from any stress-induced damage. This stress hormone
strengthens your heart. And the cool thing
is that all of these physical benefits of oxytocin are enhanced
by social contact and social support. So when you reach out
to others under stress, either to seek support
or to help someone else, you release more of this hormone, your stress response becomes healthier, and you actually recover
faster from stress. I find this amazing, that your stress response
has a built-in mechanism for stress resilience, and that mechanism is human connection. I want to finish by telling you
about one more study. And listen up, because this study
could also save a life. This study tracked about 1,000 adults
in the United States, and they ranged in age from 34 to 93, and they started the study by asking, “How much stress have you
experienced in the last year?” They also asked, “How much time have you spent
helping out friends, neighbors, people in your community?” And then they used public records
for the next five years to find out who died. Okay, so the bad news first: For every major stressful life experience, like financial difficulties
or family crisis, that increased the risk
of dying by 30 percent. But — and I hope you
are expecting a “but” by now — but that wasn’t true for everyone. People who spent time caring for others showed absolutely no stress-related
increase in dying. Zero. Caring created resilience. And so we see once again that the harmful effects
of stress on your health are not inevitable. How you think and how you act can transform your experience of stress. When you choose to view
your stress response as helpful, you create the biology of courage. And when you choose to connect
with others under stress, you can create resilience. Now I wouldn’t necessarily ask
for more stressful experiences in my life, but this science has given me
a whole new appreciation for stress. Stress gives us access to our hearts. The compassionate heart
that finds joy and meaning in connecting with others, and yes, your pounding physical heart, working so hard to give you
strength and energy. And when you choose to view
stress in this way, you’re not just getting better at stress, you’re actually making
a pretty profound statement. You’re saying that you can trust yourself
to handle life’s challenges. And you’re remembering
that you don’t have to face them alone. Thank you. (Applause) Chris Anderson: This is kind
of amazing, what you’re telling us. It seems amazing to me
that a belief about stress can make so much difference
to someone’s life expectancy. How would that extend to advice, like, if someone is making
a lifestyle choice between, say, a stressful job
and a non-stressful job, does it matter which way they go? It’s equally wise to go
for the stressful job so long as you believe
that you can handle it, in some sense? KM: Yeah, and one thing
we know for certain is that chasing meaning
is better for your health than trying to avoid discomfort. And so I would say that’s really
the best way to make decisions, is go after what it is
that creates meaning in your life and then trust yourself to handle
the stress that follows. CA: Thank you so much, Kelly.
It’s pretty cool. (Applause)

100 comments on “How to make stress your friend | Kelly McGonigal

  1. Dhiraj Chaudhari Post author

    Does this talk bolsters the point Amy cuddy said in the book 'Presence' that is fear to excitement

  2. M M Post author

    So…people who deal with chronic stress alone without any type of support system are essentially ticking time bombs unless they are providing care and support to others? Seems counterintuitive possibly amplifying the neagtive effects of stress.

  3. Matthew Otremba Post author

    Could you possibly make me a personal case study ? and see what it would do for A-Fib , and Apnea , waking and sleep.
    Too much stress in my life , and , so glad I watched this . Before my second heart Ablation , 9 hours from now .
    Your smile would open my blood vessels pronto . (I mean that in the nicest way)

  4. Sho GR Post author


  5. Liang Gao Post author

    Wow, such composure in the talk! The advice is truly life changing. Thank you, Kelly. I see so many things from your eyes.

  6. Ng峄峜 B铆ch Post author

    "When you choose to view your stress response as helpful, you create the biology of courage" 馃挭

  7. Kate Cosette Post author

    Wow. This was amazing. I was captivated listening to her, this idea is wonderful. She鈥檚 also a fantastic speaker. Thank you!

  8. Donavan Freberg Post author

    This is a great talk but I also fear that it might add pressure to people who already feel very pressured. This is the kind of science that might be an ally for people to control others and increase the already insane workloads we consider 鈥渘ormal鈥. What about self-care? What if THAT is the true meaning of life. To do less. To just be ok with being who we are. As is.

  9. Gopichandu Vancharangi Post author

    Fear can kill person with ulcer in less time
    But courage can make person with cancer live for long time…
    My point is fear causes stress馃榿

  10. NinjaNilsson Post author

    so basically, me that is a Lonewolf and don't really socialize with people will die very soon 馃槢

  11. Antonio Patterson Premed Post author

    Good. So the next time I feel stress I will just chose to believe that it is not harmful and I will be just fine.

  12. Quantized Inertia Post author

    Disagree 100%!
    We are made of Particles and live in Universe. What we are doing on Planet Earth, is a Simulation which is made by US, Humans. Things like Money, God and Property, don鈥檛 exist in Universe, so consider it all as a Simulation of carrying Peaceful Life and so enjoy the Simulation and take it easy as neither Money exists, nor Success in Society. And when our beloved leave us, in this Universe, they always exist!!
    Take it easy, nothing is real, except Love!!

  13. pranavv gautamm Post author

    Who is this person who comes at the end? He looks like one of the Hollywood actors.

    Edit: he's the director of TED but he very much looks like an unknown Hollywood actor. If you recognize,.please let me know. I have a great OCD.

  14. Alexandra Ariel Post author

    Narcissists get energy from causing and experiencing stressful interactions. It energizes and feeds them. They also do not empathize with others in stressful situations. The goal is not to resolve conflict, but incite it.
    When a narcissist gets attention by inciting a stressful situation, the empath dies earlier, but they live a long and healthy life. I have seen this. Only when the narcissist has burned all their bridges does it catch up with them.
    So I believe the research base may be flawed in that it assumed the two groups were the same to begin with.

  15. George Farage Post author

    Interesting how the society nowadays want to change the meaning of stress. What is the reason? I think they want to we work more and more forgetting about stress 馃槀. Like being happy slaves! And they know how to do this getting this speech to psicologists. I don鈥檛 trust in them

  16. Z Mythos Post author

    "Chasing meaning is better for your health than trying to avoid discomfort." That's a real good way of looking at it. 馃槷

  17. Anna Vajda Post author

    She thinks stress is psychosomatic? Sounds like a quack. Go tell starving abused children to just get over it.

  18. Martin Desrocher Post author

    she"s beautiful ! i just woke up at 7:20 am and she was talking…nice way to wake up to a meaningful conversation !

  19. Semih U艧ak Post author

    I was repeating her directions. I guess I did something wrong. Instead of making stress my friend, I made my friend stress. Now I don't know what to do with that.

  20. Mon Bon Post author

    But how do you view stress as something helpful? When it makes you feel like that? I didn鈥檛 get her point. Can someone explain this to me?

  21. zeeshan haider Post author

    Means to help other reduce your stress level…
    Thanks for sharing such a great and positive thoughts.馃挀

  22. Li锚n Qu芒n chen n峄 2.0 Post author

    I have an odd problem : my brain alsways against anything i want to make it right. Who can help me fix it?

  23. 袣芯薪褋褌邪薪褌懈薪 袩械褌褉芯胁 Post author

    i got to say more ,oldness and death from that one also is result of your beliefs

  24. Naimul Islam Post author

    Just add stress to your to do list 馃榾 you will notice that you can't be stressed as you are willing!! Mind trick 馃榾 馃榾

  25. Manoj Patil Post author

    Kelly megonical mam could l combin my different small emotions or imagination into one big emotion or imagination and add abstract thinking to it or could I develope concrete thinking and abstract thinking simultaneously ?

  26. Nixie Knox Post author

    This may be true for people who don't have PTSD. Workaholics thrive on stress but as much as I enjoy it my organs barely function and I maintain a massive amount of swelling and have most of the stress related illnesses. Changing your mind's experience of stress does not change your body's experience of stress hormones.

  27. Jonathan Megaw Post author

    Well if you are experiencing stress, or issues related to 鈥渟tress鈥 as harmful to your health then yes perhaps you are probably more likely to die of it, however that does not mean that it was your belief that caused you to die. That would be , and is, ridiculous to say! Perhaps the correlation reflected an accurate assessment of the effects of stress and its likelihood to be harmful to health the fact that they died would perhaps even confirm that?. Typical misuse and misunderstanding of scientific method to project unsupported and unsupportable meaning onto date.
    Hmm perhaps chasing meaning isn鈥檛 so great after all. Though you can bet with this attitude shes going to brush off any well founded critiques.

  28. Nindji Trenou Post author

    Unfortunately, personally, I was feeling stressed throughout the video. Maybe, it was the fact that experiments were conducted, or maybe the fact that the word "stress" was mentioned so much or the fact that "death" was immutably linked to "stress". A better approach is to simply accept the fact that stress is a condition or state in life. It acts as a stepping stone toward defeating a challenge, pausing a course, or letting us experience the moment until something changes or moves within us. And also with "joy and courage", as mentioned in the video, it may stem from that challenge of stress and help release stress hormones while we benefit from of our inner bodily responses, and rapid synaptic junctions in our cerebrum helping propel more joy or courage, or disappointment, resilience, strength, hope, and courage. Like the 12th steps plan, we should fight and find our own action plans to lifts us higher to greater heights in a case and lie instead of surviving.

  29. Lan Pha蹋m Post author

    鈥淕o after what it is that creates meaning in your life and believe that you handle the stress that follows.鈥

  30. yasser elsaeed Post author

    No .. stress are so dangerous .. not any benefits ..i could reach out people without disasters in my life .. she seems a nice lady ..all she said seems pretty nice and right but in fact it's all wrong

  31. F. Fehse Post author

    Great, I can already see some CEOs and managers tell their employees:

    "Hey, it's not the 80h week, it's your attitude. Watch this video!"

  32. Beant Singh Post author

    I love you lady, you just gave awesome ideas that may lead to salvage of so many innocent lives under the stress created by the demons.Those lives are going to become super humans and help the humanity one day.Thank you so much for listening to our hearts ( the most stressfull ones) and motivating us to get over these f**kin challenges.

  33. caffein11 Post author

    Stress is an access to heart of compassion and empathy. We are already equiped with coping mechanism in our body. Thank you for sharing amazing knowlege about human body.

  34. halee84 Post author

    "And so I would say that's really the best way to make decisions, is go after what it is that creates meaning in your life and then trust yourself to handle the stress that follows".

  35. MoonFisherman Post author

    You made me think differently of how to perceive stress. Thank you for your inspiring presentation. I鈥檝e saving this video to share it with others who are stressing out too. 鉁岋笍

  36. Kerri-Ann Mchayle Post author

    Hold on. Just because the people who rate stress as harmful die, doesn't mean that that's why they died. That's a frail connection, isn't it?

  37. Wreckd Project Post author

    " Go after what it is that gives you meaning in life, and then trust yourself to handle the stress that follows"

  38. Jonathan Pilli Post author

    for some reason I think we've been having a different definition for stress. I'm not saying that i/she was thinking wrong, I just think she was talking about something else


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