The Oxford English Dictionary defines stress as “a state of mental or emotional strain or tension resulting from adverse or demanding circumstances”. In the 1930s, Hans Selye began researching stress by experimenting with rats.1
Now, a new body of research suggests that what matters is not just the level of stress or even its type, but how it is thought about. The same stress, perceived differently, can trigger different physical responses, with differing consequences for both performance and health.
According to an article in The Economist magazine, recognizing that stress can be beneficial seems to help in two ways. First, people who have a more positive view of stress are more likely to behave in a positive way. Second, seeing stressors as challenges rather than threats invites physiological responses that improve thinking.
Scientists have shown that recognizing the benefits of stress can cause measurable improvements in performance. The cost of stress is staggering. In America, it is estimated that work related stress accounted for between $125 billion and $190 billion in healthcare costs annually. France recently passed a law giving workers the “right to disconnect”.
For people going through divorce, stress is a common occurrence. This recent research confirms an intuitive belief I have held: we must find a positive way to perceive the stress we experience.
1 “What makes us stronger.” The Economist. July 23rd-29th 2016.