Character & Soul, Health & Fitness, Self-Improvement, Wellbeing

Gain Strength From Stress – Vanessa Tai

material world singapore_stress woman

As you’re reading this, you’re probably going through some sort of stress. Whether it’s your boss chasing you on a project deadline or your mounting credit card bills, stress is part and parcel of everyday life. In fact, just thinking about stress may cause us to feel even more stressed out. That’s because we know the harmful effects that stress can cause – it lowers your immunity and increases the risk of everything from the common cold to cardiovascular disease.

However, I recently watched a fascinating TED talk about stress, and the points brought up by the speaker inspired me to see stress in a whole new light. I’ll like to share the pertinent points with you, here:

It’s not stress per se that is harmful; it’s how you think about stress that makes a difference

In an eight-year study that tracked 30,000 adults in the United States, the researchers asked participants, “How much stress have you experienced in the last year?” They also asked, “Do you believe stress is harmful for your health?” Here’s what the study found:

1. People who experienced a lot of stress in the previous year had a 43 percent increased risk of dying. However, this was only true for the people who believed stress was harmful to one’s health.

2. People who experienced a lot of stress but did not view stress as harmful had the lowest risk of dying of anyone in the study, including people who had relatively little stress.

What this tells us is, it’s not the experience of stress that increases our risk of chronic illnesses, but our attitude towards it. Why?

Our minds influence our biology

Ever notice the physical changes your body goes through during stressful situations, say right before an important presentation or during your annual performance review? Your heart is pounding wildly, you might be breathing faster or you might even be breaking out in sweat. All these physical signs are usually interpreted as anxiety, or that we aren’t coping well with the pressure. But what if you changed the way you thought about these physical manifestations? Your pounding heart is gearing you up for action and your rapid breathing is sending more oxygen to your brain.

That was exactly what participants in a recent social study on stress were instructed to do. The results were astounding.

Participants who learned to view their stress response as helpful to their performance reported feeling less anxious and more confident, but that’s not all. Their blood vessels also stayed relaxed! In a typical stress response, your heart rate goes up and your blood vessels constrict, which is one of the reasons why chronic stress is sometimes linked to cardiovascular disease.

material world singapore_blood vessels

So, by viewing their stress response in a positive light, these participants were actually exhibiting a much healthier cardiovascular profile. In fact, it actually looks a lot like what happens in moments of joy and courage!

material world singapore_stress quoteHow to change the way you think about stress

The next time you experience the physical signs of anxiety – a pounding heart, rapid breathing, etc – tell yourself, “This is my body helping me to rise to the challenge.” You’ll start to view your situation differently. Instead of the situation being an unscalable mountain, it becomes a challenge that you’re well-equipped to take on.

I’m not sure about you, but I found this incredibly empowering. It definitely changed the way how I view stressful triggers in my life, and I hope it does for you too.

To watch the entire TED talk, click here.

About The Author: Vanessa Tai is a founder of Material World who has previously worked on magazines Simply Her and Cosmopolitan Singapore. Now a freelance writer and a full-time contributor to this website, the 26-year-old dreams of attending every single major music festival before she turns 30. Follow her on Twitter @VannTaiTweets.

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Character & Soul, Health & Fitness, Self-Improvement, Wellbeing

Living A Fully Engaged Life – Vanessa Tai

Do you feel tired all the time? Do you often find yourself checking the clock, counting down the hours till you can leave the office? And when you finally leave, do you find yourself squashed in public transport, getting increasingly miserable by the minute? The daily grind can be absolutely draining, both physically and emotionally. Sure, you may hit the gym every once in a while or even go on short vacations with your friends, but if you’re honest, your life feels pretty automated, without much passion or inspiration.

Are you going through life half-asleep?

Are you going through life half-asleep?

If the above sounds like you, don’t beat yourself up. It’s all too easy to live life on auto pilot. In fact, in a 2011 study of 5,000 adults in the UK, 52 percent of the population admitted to turning back unnecessarily on a journey because they could not remember locking the front door, and about one in five said they have drank a cup of tea … but have zero recollection of making it.

Automated behaviour is not always a bad thing. When your brain becomes accustomed to certain habits such as brushing your teeth or taking the trash out, performing these tasks become automatic, freeing your brain up for more important tasks. However, it’s when you find yourself falling into a rut at work or in your relationships that an autopilot life becomes a problem. So are there ways to be consciously engaged to your life? Sure there are!

1. Be More Appreciative 

You don’t need to start a gratitude journal to start appreciating the little things in your life you’re grateful for. One easy way to start is to offer a sincere “thank you” whenever someone does something nice for you. It could be your boyfriend who fetches you to work every morning, or your colleague who helped buy lunch back or even the bus driver on your daily commute home. Taking the few seconds to smile and offer gratitude will warm both your and the recipient’s hearts.

2. Shake Up Your Routine

Even if it’s something small like taking a different route to work or something major like visiting a country you’ve never been to before, it’s important to jolt your senses every so often. Not only will you feel reinvigorated, you start to view your life in ways you’ve never had before. Check out our guest writer’s post on how she goes on one adventure every single week!

3. Me-Time

15 minutes of daily quiet time does wonders for your wellbeing

15 minutes of daily quiet time can do wonders for your wellbeing

Our hectic lifestyles are often packed to the brim with work and social obligations, so much so that very often, the only time we’re truly alone is when we’re sleeping or on the can! Sad, but true. No matter how busy we are, though, it’s worthwhile to take 15 minutes out of your day to sit in quiet contemplation (no smartphones or tablets allowed.) Even if the bathroom is the only place where you can get a bit of privacy, it’s still very therapeutic to have that few moments alone where your mind isn’t wired to complete a task or engage in conversation.

It is not in the pursuit of happiness that we find fulfillment, it is in the happiness of pursuit. – Denis Waitley

About The Author: Vanessa Tai is a founder of Material World who has previously worked on magazines Simply Her and Cosmopolitan Singapore. Now a freelance writer and a full-time contributor to this website, the 26-year-old dreams of attending every single major music festival before she turns 30. Follow her on Twitter @VannTaiTweets

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