5. Stress Harms.
Most of the headlines about stress tend to focus on the negative impact that stress can have in our lives, and it’s true: Too much stress can be harmful to your health. I know firsthand, having experienced burnout at the end of my law practice. Yet the gloom and doom headlines about stress don’t tell the whole story. A recent study surveyed almost 29,000 adults and asked them two questions:
- How much stress did you experience in the last year?
- Do you believe that stress is harmful to your health?
Eight years later, the researchers checked to see whether stress impacted the rates of mortality for these participants. What they found was that the participants with high levels of stress were more likely to die, but only if they also believed that stress was harmful to their health. The people with high levels of reported stress who did not believe that stress was harmful actually had the lowest risk of death of any group in the study.
What’s worse, having a “stress harms” mindset can keep you stuck thinking you must be the only one, and that’s potentially dangerous. One of the most unexpected consequences of our stress response is its subtle encouragement to seek out others. Alia Crum and her colleagues found that people who endorse a “stress helps” mindset report less depression and anxiety and higher levels of energy, work performance, mental strength, and life satisfaction.
This thinking style represents your tendency to jump to the worst-case scenario when something stressful happens. You are more likely to catastrophize when you’re run down, stressed out, tired, or depleted, something you value is at stake (maybe your reputation has been called into question), it’s your first time doing something, or the situation is vague or unclear (like receiving an e-mail that only says, “Come see me now”).
It’s a powerful thinking style because it shuts down your ability to take purposeful action. This mindset completely undercuts your mental strength and resilience.
7. Pessimistic Explanatory Style.
How do you explain the cause of both positive and negative events—e.g., getting a flat tire, having another argument with your significant other, getting a promotion, etc.?
When you have a more pessimistic way of explaining stressful events, it sounds like: “This will be around forever (this event is permanent), it will impact multiple areas of my life (this event is pervasive), and it’s all my fault (this event is personal).”
Pessimistic thinkers also tend to explain good events away, attributing success to luck or something else outside of their control. These cognitive explanations fall along a continuum, and research has shown that consistent pessimistic explanations are associated with an increased likelihood of depression, anxiety, hopelessness, and helplessness. If left unchanged, this mindset undercuts mental strength and resilience.
Henry Ford said, “If you think you can or if you think you can’t, you’re right.” The way you think influences your emotions and the way you act under stress and pressure. Stay tuned for strategies to help you reduce the impact of these unhelpful mindsets
Written by: Paula Davis Originally appeared on: Psychology Today Republished with permission