i saw a ted talk by kelly mcgonical titled how to make stress your friend via a reblog from my friend shrewed up. the talk centered around stress and how people handle stress. i had some rather easy by remarkable results.
for the sake of this discussion, there are three groups; those who have low stress, those who get stressed and those who use stress as and indicator. let me explain the third group a little further. these people recognized they are stressed, recognize the physical reactions that go with it, a racing heart, a tight jaw, stress in the shoulders, shallow breathing, a tight gut, and move on. they don’t dwell on the stress; they simply move on.
ranking the groups on who did best to worse had surprising results. the stress as an indicator group did best, followed by the low stress people and finally, the group who gets stressed. it ends up the stress as an indicator group individuals have physiological reactions similar to those acting courageous. so, the act of recognizing the stress and moving on made people feel similar to courageous people. that sounds crazy, i know, but kelly quoted multiple studies that has similar results.
i decided to make myself part of the “experiment”. i’m usually a stress for stress sake type of person. I let stress run roughshod over me and suffer the consequences for minutes or days to come. by putting myself into the experiment, i decided to use stress as an indicator. I got almost immediate results.
last friday night, Mary and i went out to dinner with three other couples, friends of Mary’s. we arrived early, so, we had our section of restaurant to ourselves. this other person and i often did not partake in the communication circles. still at times, i felt there were four conversations going on at same time. between three couples? I know, that does not make sense but that’s what it felt like. as a struggler with social anxiety, this put me a little ill at ease, at least sometimes.
additionally , as the evening went on, more and more people came into the restaurant space. first it was a couple, then another, and then the next thing i know almost the entire restaurant section had filled. with each additional table, the noise began to increase in a crescendo.
with the combination of the two, i recognized myself as stressed. “okay, employ stress as and indicator. what’s going on?”, I said to myself. I scanned my body, my gut was slightly tense, same with the jaw, but shallow breathing seemed to be the overriding characteristics of this bout of stress. i took 5 or 10 seconds just to recognize and sit in the stress. after that, I made and effort to return to the evening.
then, something pretty miraculous happened. ten to fifteen seconds went by. i notice of the going ons in my body. my breath had slowed and deepened as if i found myself in a meditative state. i did not make a conscious decision to do this; my body started doing this on its own accord! bizarre!
the noise continued to build and a second wave of stress came over me. i, again, employed stress as an indicator. this time, the results were less dramatic and the stress continued. then, i did something a little out of character; instead of sitting in the stress, I made the decision to step outside. i caught Mary’s eye, cupped my ears, and mouthed, “too loud. stepping outside.”
i walked around on the sidewalk in front of the restaurant and felt the stress begin to ebb from my body. I stayed with it until I felt calm again. i considered staying outside until the crew came out, but I made the decision to go back into the restaurant.
upon returning to the i immediately sensed the noise level, “holy crap! man it’s noisy in here,” I thought. no wonder I felt stressed, earlier! fortunately, people were working to finalize their bills, so i knew we’d be leaving soon enough. within a couple of minutes, we headed for the door.
i would call that pretty good results for the first night. previously, I would have recognized the stress. that would make me even more stressed and i’d cycle up and the stress level. tonight, i had two different results. first, i recognized the stress and the bodily reactions. from there, my body seemed to automatically kick into stress reduction mode. on the second, the results did not turn out as well as the first time. still, i gave myself permission to exit stage left and let the stress dissipate and i returned to a calm state.
so perhaps, just maybe the mcgonical results aren’t as weird and cockeyed as i first thought. i think i’ll continue this for awhile and hope for similar results. let’s face it, I don’t know about you, but stress feeds my depressive state. perhaps that reduction in stress will help me to work my way out of my depressive state.