This one biological change can be the difference between one stress-induced heart attack at 50 and living well into your 90s.
I am well aware of the negative impact that stress can have on my health. When it is not dealt with well, stress can increase the negative impact of any illness – from the common cold to cancer. Kelly McGonigal’s talk makes me realise the power of mind over matter or, more specifically, the impact that a change in mental state or approach can have on my biological response to stress. And while we are rarely in control of the number of stressful situations we find ourselves in, this talk really changes my perspective on how to deal with it.
The biggest eye opener for me was Kelly’s insight into the unsung “hero” of stress: oxytocin. I didn’t realise our body produces it in moments of stress. And it produces it so we are physically prompted to reach out to others so we get support to cope with stress or so we can notice stress in others and reach out to help those in need..
Oxytocin helps heart cells regenerate and heal from stress induced damage. This stress hormone strengthens your hear.t. All 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 … your stress response becomes healthier.
To me, this is huge. It reaffirms my belief that humans are hard-wired for community; that we are not built to go through life in isolation. Our need for connection, our need to share experiences with others, and the positive impact that this “sharing” has on our level of resilience, courage and strength, is all actually built into our biology. Whoa.
Your stress response has a built-in mechanism for stress resilience, and that mechanism is human connection.
Mind officially blown.