Stress – Public Enemy #1 – or Good Friend?

Health psychologist Kelly McGonigal packs a wallop in a 14-minute TED talk. She apologizes for years of making stress the “bad guy” and then offers solid research demonstrating how stress can be used to build resilience and greater health. As with the Oasis Strategies, it’s all in how we interact with stressful situations that makes the difference.

Oasis or overwhelm?

Dr. McGonigal’s talk reminded me of when I heard Dr. Shelley Taylor a few years back. Remember how we were taught that the basic normal response to threat or danger was fight or flight? Dr. Taylor found that this f-or-f theory was based almost entirely on studies that involved only male subjects. From Dr. Taylor’s work with females, humans and animals, she found that it was quite the opposite: the first response was not fight or flight; rather it was tend and befriend. She pointed out that we are hardwired to give and receive comfort and support in time of trouble: we do whatever is needed to preserve the species. The hormone oxytocin kicks in big time to make this happen.

I was delighted to hear Dr. McGonigal talk about oxytocin as a stress hormone that actually triggers our social instinct in times of challenge. As she says, we can view the stress signals not as foes, but as  “This is my body helping me rise to this challenge…it’s the biology of courage…of resilience.”

Thanks to Coach Jackie Johnson, a colleague and Oasis Training Grad, for pointing me to Kelly’s talk. Look for the full talk on YouTube.