How to make stress your friend – Hood House

Over the next few weeks, the majority of us will be feeling the pressure of the exam season and the inevitable burden of stress that comes with it. Over the last couple of years, you have likely listened to many students and teachers complain about the negative impact of stress and how sufficient revision will result in a cool, calm and collected version of yourself entering the exam room. But this isn’t always the case. What if those who have dismissed stress as the negative side effect of exams, were wrong?

Instead of trying to reduce our stress or struggling trying to overcome it, we can improve our performances by utilising stress in a positive way. So, how do we make stress our friend rather than our enemy?

A recent study conducted in America tracked 30,000 adults over the period of 8 years. Firstly, the participants were asked how much stress they had experienced over the past year. Had they felt a little stressed? Had they felt moderately stressed? Or had they experienced a high level of stress? They were then asked whether or not they believed stress had a negative effect on their wellbeing, some said yes, and others said no. Finally, public death records were monitored to see how stress affected the individuals, and they received incredible results.


The people who claimed high levels of stress over the last year had a 43% higher chance of death, but only if they viewed stress as negative. From this, it was estimated that 182,000 people were likely to die of stress related causes per year, making it more dangerous than skin cancer and AIDs. Although this may be a scary statistic, the surprising result was that those people who also claimed high stress levels, yet didn’t think it was dangerous for their wellbeing, had the lowest risk of death; even lower than those who experience very little stress. Therefore, it is not stress itself, but how you choose to perceive it which determines its impact on your life.

You can choose to embrace stress and allow it to motivate you, or stay with the same old philosophy that stress itself is markedly negative. Perceiving stress positively, changes the body’s response to it, keeping us happier and healthier. Health psychologist Kelly McGonigal, claims stress is merely preparing your body for the challenge you are about to face. For example, faster breathing does not have to be interpreted as a sign of not coping well with pressure, and can instead be interpreted as a positive. The quickening of breath allows more oxygen to reach the brain, allowing it to perform better, this being the reason why 68% of people find they work better under stress.

Embracing stress reduces health issues and this has been proven by an experiment conducted by Harvard university. Each individual was instructed to think of stress positively, and their stress response was then analysed. When the participants considered their stress to be healthy and helpful, their blood vessels, rather than becoming narrower as common to a stress response, remained normal, despite heart rate.

Therefore, not only does embracing stress help us perform better, it also reduces the risk of significant health issues, linked to the narrowing of blood vessels. Once we convince our brain that stress is simply a tool of your body, helping you rise up to the next challenge, your body in turn will believe you.

It is up to you to make stress your friend. This week, try to embrace stress and use it to prepare you for the situation ahead, whether it be exam nerves, an interview, or any other kind of event. Have trust in your brain, and your brain will have trust in you.

Leave a Reply