BY MEGAN MAHEDY
If there is one thing college students can understand, its stress.
Balancing school, clubs, work and sports while having a social life can be demanding.
Stress is believed to be unhealthy for anyone’s health; it increases risks of developing the common cold and cardiovascular disease.
However, some studies are now leading us to believe otherwise. What if stress is only unhealthy if you perceive it to be?
Within the Department of Population Health Sciences at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, researchers performed a National Health Interview Survey that followed 300,000 adults in the U.S. for over eight years. According to the study, the participants who reported they had a significant amount of stress within the past year had a 43 percent greater chance of dying; however, this was only true if the participants believed that stress could be harmful to their health.
Meaning, these individuals who maintained high levels of stress and a negative perception, had an increased risk of premature death. This research suggests if you change your mind about stress, you can change your body’s reaction to stress.
Most college students have experienced that feeling of being under pressure; among other symptoms, your heart pounds, your hands get shaky and you begin to sweat. What if these feelings could be attributed to the fact that your body is becoming energized and physically getting ready to handle an important task?
In a study at Harvard University’s Department of Psychology, researchers performed something called the “Social Stress Test.” Before the test began, participants were informed that their stress would improve their performance and that the pounding of their heart would prepare them for action and breathing quickly would be beneficial, as it would supply more oxygen to their heart and brain.
Participants who learned to view their stress as a good body reaction reacted positively and with more self-confidence.
Physical stress response also changed drastically. When participants were told that symptoms of stress are a good thing, their bodily response mirrored a biological response to that of a happy situation. The heart beat normally, vessels stayed relaxed and blood flowed regularly throughout the body.
So according to these studies, the way one thinks about stress can be used as a powerful motivator.
This mental change, if practiced regularly, could make a difference in overall academic and professional performance under stress because when you believe stress is good for you, your body does too.