Stress is our greatest friend. Reading this you may say “Yeah – right!”
I hear you. I don’t particularly enjoy stress myself and calling it a friend is not always my choice word for it, if you know what I mean. It certainly has received a bad rep in the past decades because it has become a constant presence in many of our lives in an unrelenting kind of way. That type of stress can certainly be unpleasant and accompanied by a good amount of discomfort.
But stress is what makes us grow on all levels. It is often the catalyst for change for those willing to embrace transformation. If there were no stress, we humans would most likely not get much accomplished because we’d be too comfortable. It is what drives growth and evolution. It nurtures resilience. If, for example, we stress bacteria with an antibiotic, it will find a way to adapt in order to survive.
At varying times in life, stress results from more serious illness, the loss of a beloved pet, or other disrupting events. In the moment, these events never feel good, but when I look back on my hardships, a pearl of wisdom, new passion, and learning always emerged from it.
Stress is also like an indicator light. It flashes, encouraging us to examine and take care of those hidden beliefs, worries, and fears that hold us back. If we dare to examine and dig in a bit, we can uncover what’s triggering us, find healing and come one step closer to experiencing wholeness.
Stress: What Science Shows Us
Even on a scientific level, there is a new light shining on our “friend.”
A study¹ on the effect of stress was done by tracking 30000 Americans over a period of eight years. At the beginning of the study, participants were asked how much stress they experienced in the past year. They were also questioned as to whether they believed it was detrimental to their health. The researchers then accessed public health records to find out who died over the next eight years.
Those people who experienced a high amount of stress had a 43% higher likelihood of dying prematurely, BUT only if they also believed that it was harmful for their health. Surprisingly, those individuals who didn’t view it as damaging had the lowest risk of dying prematurely of anyone in the study, including those who reported low stress levels.
The researchers estimate that 20,231 people die prematurely every year from the BELIEF that daily/chronic stressors are detrimental to their health. This makes the belief that stress is bad for us the 15th leading cause of death in the U.S., killing a greater number of people than homicide, brain cancer, and HIV based on the CDC’s ranking in 2006.
Our animals sense our stress, but they also love to help us move past it and get right back into our hearts. So, share your worries, fears, joys, and love with your animals. Confide in them and open your hearts with everything in it. Learn from the stress. Embrace the change it brings. All is well just as it is.
1. Keller A, Litzelman K, Wisk LE, et al. Does the perception that stress affects health matter? The association with health and mortality. Health Psychol. 2012;31(5):677‐684.