There’s been so much research recently about how chronic stress puts parents of kids with disabilities at greater risk of physical and mental health problems, including the suggestion that it can cause us to age faster.
That’s always made me feel pessimistic and kind of doomed.
So when I was sitting on a rotary bike at the club yesterday and saw an interview with the author of The Upside of Stress: Why Stress Is Good For You And How to Get Good At It I perked up.
I figured it was some kind of fluffy book, but when I later pulled it up on Kobo, I realized it was written by Stanford University psychologist Kelly McGonigal and has a lot of research behind it.
Her premise is that most people view stress as toxic and harmful to our health and that this belief creates physiological responses that lead to a self-fulfilling prophecy.
On the other hand, there are people who view stress as enhancing: they see it as improving work performance, improving their health and vitality, and something that can be harnessed to promote growth.
I haven’t gotten far into the book, but McGonigal summons research that suggests that how you expect stress to impact you—either positive or negative—plays a role in how your body responds to it.
She references research that shows “that people who believe stress is enhancing are less depressed and more satisfied with their lives than those who believe stress is harmful. They have more energy and fewer health problems. They’re happier and more productive at work. They also have a different relationship to the stress in their lives: They are more likely to view stressful situations as a challenge, not an overwhelming problem. They have greater confidence in their ability to cope with those challenges, and they are better able to find meaning in difficult circumstances.”
And she says she’s not talking about trivial, garden-variety stress like getting stuck in traffic. People who have used her techniques have found them most helpful when dealing with major life losses.
So I’m just throwing this out there, thinking that you too may want to learn more about this research and how it can apply to parents of children with disabilities.
In the meantime, I'm going to take a brisk walk around Spiral Garden.