Stress: How to Use it to Your Advantage

by NickM on January 26, 2015 - 9:58pm

Original title: How to make stress your friend

Author (speaker): Kelly McGonigal

Publication: Talks,

Publication date: Filmed July 2013

In our daily lives, we often deal with certain forms of stress. Depending on who we are, stress appears in various circumstances and quantities. In her Talk "How to make stress your friend", health psychologist Kelly McGonigal discusses her goal to help people deal with stress in a way that will support them in difficult situations.


Over the 10 years prior to the TED Talk, McGonigal has been telling her patients that stress has very negative effect on their physical and mental health. After conducting an eight-year study involving 30,000 Americans (adults), it was discovered that it wasn't really stress that posed a risk to an individual's health, but the belief that stress has a negative impact on their health. The study also found out that over the 8 years prior to the study, "182,000 Americans died prematurely, not from stress, but from the belief that stress is bad for you". Using this knowledge, McGonigal changed her approach on stress by teaching people how to react differently when confronted by stress; by “[making] it their friend. When people are beginning to stress out, their physiological reactions include an increased heart rate, accelerated breathing and "maybe breaking out into a sweat". When people realize this, they assume that these reactions demonstrate how they are not dealing very well with stress. By altering these beliefs, the negative impacts of stress are also altered. McGonigal states that the physiological symptoms should be viewed as prepping your body for a certain event; your accelerated heart rate is "preparing you for action" and your accelerated breathing is only a means to "getting more oxygen to your brain". Adopting this new perception of stress lowers your feeling of distress and increases your confidence significantly.


McGonigal also discussed how the stress hormone, oxytocin, contributes to the psychological symptoms such as "pounding heart" and accelerated breathing. Oxytocin is also a hormone that makes people "crave physical contact with your friends and family". Therefore, stress can also be resolved through human interaction. Also, McGonigal refers to a study that shows how people who are compassionate with others show no "stress-related increase in dying".


By applying the notions obtained from this study, it becomes easier to improve our behaviours towards stress. While living fast-pace lives, dealing with stress increases one's confidence, productivity and also improves one's physical and mental health. The more that these techniques are passed on amongst individuals, people will progressively become better at coping with their daily stressors.


I believe that this source is reliable because TED is a global non-profit organization that holds conferences featuring various professionals who are qualified in the disciplines that they present.



I find it quite interesting, in fact, that there is such a longitudinal study that has been conducted about stress. To me, it is even more fascinating that the findings of the study have correlated that stress is not necessarily the health risk but it is the individual's perspective of what stress that can cause serious health issues.
Personally, whenever I get stressed, I have sleep deprivation, I subconsciously grind my teeth together, and other such negative health hazards. I know that there are not many resources from schools or workplaces to obtain coping skills or mechanisms on how to handle stress. But the world of the internet can be quite vast in information, and if you look in the right places, you can find what you need to cope with stress. Such as the following site that gives tips on stress management:
This is a great post, opens up a better understanding of stress.