#3 The Thing About Stress
Adrenaline rushes from the adrenal medulla through my body and makes my heart beat faster. Breathing increases, blood pressure rises, beads of sweat form on my forehead. All very clear signs of a stress reaction. Yipieee!
Years ago, the medical community declared stress as an enemy. It leads to cardiovascular problems and weakens the immune system. Stress equals poison! And has to be mastered. We need to seek rest, peace and quiet - avoiding stress is the key to a long (and most likely rather boring) life. We interpret the feeling of stress as a fear of not being able to cope with the pressure of the situation.
However, the latest research paints a completely different picture: As always, the personal point of view is crucial. If we would just be able not to view stress symptoms as unhealthy, but as a natural measure of the body to cope with the upcoming situation, it would neutralize the unhealthy side effects of stress altogether. Stress as a partner in crime - an accomplice which assists you in mastering the upcoming challenge! This change of perspective by itself helps the coronary vessels stay relaxed, rather than contract tightly as they would in situations of anxiety. The physiological picture is now comparable to what joy or courage looks! In addition, stress makes us more empathetic and social. The hormone oxytocin, which is released in stressful situations, sharpens the social instinct. We seek the contact and the support of our fellow human beings, which strengthens the ability to cooperate as well as the relationships with people who are important to us. As a side effect, Oxytocin has an anti-inflammatory effect and protects the cardiovascular system from the side effects of stress. The stress hormone strengthens the heart through the regeneration of heart cells! This effect is even compounded by social interaction.
Especially when colleagues have to describe me or my work, there‘s a pattern of soft skills, that are always attributed to me. Calmness and Composure - I‘d be „relaxed and „stress-resistant“. So how come, that in most stressful situations I can react as calmly as possible and without getting stung by the panic that spreads through the team like wildfire? Very simple: conditioning! When I first appeared on stage with my former punk band (seems like decades ago;), that was an enormous overcoming for me. But the constant repetition of such challenges has helped to fundamentally change my perspective on stressful situations. Whether giving presentations, coordinating chaotic shootings, or staying calm when realizing that creepy guy behind me at our nightly stroll through St. Petersburg is getting ready to steal my camera. The signs of my body are still the same: fast pulse, increased blood pressure, the urge to act (fight-or-flight response). But the different state of mind makes Distress an Eustress. I feel ready for the task, go into solution mode and consciously face the problem. This way I can always get something positive out of the situation, however negative it may seem. So if stress leaves you paralyzed, scared, or in panic, I would like to give you 2 tips that are crusual to conquer your fear of stressful situations:
1. Search and contest challenges - again and again and again.
2. Change your perspective on these situations - it‘ll convert stress from enemy to accomplice.