Befriending Stress and Creating Resiliency

I recently saw a TED talk by Kelly McGonigal on befriending stress. It is worth watching because she outlines a deceptively simple concept: changing the way we think about something can alter our body’s response to it.

My favorite part of her talk is the idea that how you think and act creates the “biology of courage.” In other words, we grossly underestimate the power we wield over our own lives.

When I look back on the first few weeks following my husband’s death, I can see that my body was doing exactly what she outlines. It was preparing me to meet the challenge. The adrenaline running through me (I felt like the energizer bunny on steroids) made it virtually impossible to sleep, and though I was often tired, there was a river of energy streaming through me that allowed me to address the seemingly insurmountable circumstances before me.

My pounding heart was preparing me for action by pumping blood to every corner of my body.

At times I felt like I wasn’t breathing at all and there was no room for air in my lungs. At other times, I was breathing so fast I thought I might hyperventilate and pass out.

The benefit was more oxygen to my brain.

I remember sitting at my desk at two in the morning, making to-do lists, filing legal papers and sending emails. I had a ridiculous collection of binders and files but the adrenaline rush gave me the sense of being invincible and kept me laser focused on the tasks at hand.

Had I been able to repeat the mantra, “This is my body helping me rise to the challenge,” perhaps I might have been able to integrate all the moving parts with ease, instead of feeling like it shouldn’t be happening and seeking relief via Xanax or wine. Instead, I had the sense that I was at battle with everything that was happening in my body.

Stress produces Oxytocin, the “cuddle hormone”. It drives us seek social support and protects the body by regenerating heart cells and working as a natural anti-inflammatory. In its infinite wisdom, the body has provided a built-in healing mechanism: the release of Oxytocin repairs the necessary, but potentially damaging, effects of increased adrenaline.

Fortunately, I did seek support from every channel I could find and hopefully that will counteract the lack of knowledge and counter the belief at the time that my stress response was harmful and not helpful.

Befriending stress is a powerful way to harness the power of the body. I believe this to be true for our stories as well. Befriending our experiences to capture the wisdom contained within them sets us free and creates the biology of resilience.

How do you choose to view your stress and your stories? Can you reframe your beliefs so you can trust yourself to handle life’s challenges?


Who is Dianna Bonny?

Hi, my name is Dianna Bonny. It’s my mission to candidly share my journey with you. For me, it’s all about the healing: to create a radiant healing energy for others who have befallen a similar fate. Together, we can forge beautiful lives of belonging and connection. Thanks for joining me today! I look forward to hearing from you.

  2 comments for “Befriending Stress and Creating Resiliency

  1. September 27, 2013 at 9:28 am

    Dianna, the practice of befriending the responses our body’s wisdom produces is so powerful!

    I’ve blogged about the same kind of thing, encouraging people to befriend our fear and dialog with our doubt. Hadn’t thought about befriending stress, yet, but it makes so much sense!

    Thank you for sharing your story — and the Kelly McGonigal TED Talk. I appreciate your blog and your passion for sharing your story.

    • Dianna Bonny
      September 29, 2013 at 9:23 am

      Thank you Tracie. Our bodies contain so much wisdom – we just have to learn to trust the messages. So glad you are here. I am enjoying your new! Bravo to you for helping people share their stories. xo

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