Making Stress Your Friend
Making Stress your Friend
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What is stress? According to Taylor, “Stress is a negative emotional experience accompanied by predictable biochemical, physiological, cognitive, and behavioral changes that are directed either toward altering the stressful event or accommodating to its eﬀects” (Taylor, 2012). In that way, we can see that stress refers to emotional, or cognitive experiences that create a series of negative feelings for the individual. Those changes experienced by the individual can be of any sorts, as there are cases of stress that affect people psychologically, and others that can pose serious harm to the physiological functions. Stress can affect every person in the world, and research has shown that every person can suffer from stress in a given moment of its life. However, it is important to differentiate stress as a condition from stressful moments. Although all are important, conditions such as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder might need therapy or counseling to improve whereas a stressful moment can pass as soon as the stressor disappears.
Recent statistics from the American Psychological Association, indicate that “39% of Americans reported that their stress has increased over the past year (…) only 29% indicated that they were doing an excellent or very good job at managing their stress” (APA, 2012). This suggests that the average person does not know how to cope with stress, and it is possible that this stress becomes something worse, turning into a real psychic disorder
In this essay, we shall watch the TED talk “Making Stress your Friend” by Kelly McGonigal. Then, we aim to apply our findings to our career. For instance, on how the talk’s conclusions reflect our practice. The patients we treat, and the stress they face. Afterward, we shall answer a series of questions regarding our practice, and crisis counseling.
In her talk, McGonigal considered that her approach to stress has been a faulty one. She has been telling people for years that stress is an enemy, but through the years, she has changed her views concerning stress. Her new approach to stress was that it is possible for people to be confirmed and turn it into a positive feeling, one that helps you rising to the challenges the life poses. That way, says McGonigal your body becomes better at handling stress.
As we could see in our introduction, most Americans are not good at handling stress, and they are often surpassed by it. However, to being able to counsel our prospective patients, we have to know the causes underlying stress. To understand stress, McGonigal consider that we have to understand how oxytocin works in our body. Oxytocin, McGonigal says, enhances your empathy and makes you look for those around you. Oxytocin is the body response to stress, as adrenaline is the response to danger (McGonigal, 2013: 7:48). Understanding that, we can understand the main causes of stress among Americans. The American Psychological Association surveyed those reasons and found that “Sources of stress include money (75%), work (70%), economy (67%), relationships (58%), family responsibilities (57%), family’s health (53%), personal health (53%), job stability (49%), housing (49%), and personal safety (32%).” (APA, 2012). After knowing those facts, we, as counselors can truly help those patients who come seeking our aid. In that way, we can answer the questions posed.
How would you apply the findings described in the video to work with clients who are stressed?
Strictly speaking, knowing that stress can be an ally when helping people cope with their issues can be a tool of tremendous help. We have seen that most people often consider that stress is a problem that needs to be solved, instead of a situation that can help you improve. In the same way, if stress makes you social, as McGonigal says, it can be used as a strategy to cope with the issues that are traditionally related to stress. Getting the patients accustomed to their stress can be a possible tool when counseling, since that by understanding the stressful situations, patients would be able to respond accordingly to them, instead of cowering, and feeling surpassed by it.
How do Stress and Crisis Differ and what are the Applicable Strategies for Dealing with each?
Stress and crisis are different from each other. The first relates to situations that pose a threat to mental health, and the second refers to mild levels of stress. For the first, crisis counseling on the areas they feel affected on might be the key to helping the patient. For instance, a crisis such as a financial problem can increase the risk of dying in 30 percent (McGonigal, 2012: 11:26). If we follow the talk, to make the patient share its problems with a family member can help to relieve the stress and avert the crisis. It is undeniable that stress and crisis are together, and they should be treated together as to avoid a greater problem.
What types of Crisis have you seen, or do you anticipate seeing, and how do you anticipate dealing with these?
As we said, the primary goal of the talk was to make people understand that stress can be an ally in our lives. Given the fact that many crises have relation with the issues we described earlier, we should offer the patient a process of introspection on which he realizes that despite the prospective crisis, those can be averted by understanding that many of these life or death situations are not as hard as perceived. In the same way, it is important to show empathy to the patient as a way of showing the patient how to be empathic with its problems. McGonigal says that stress gives us access to our hearts and allows us to connect with others that way by showing empathy, the patient will learn to be empathic as well.
What are the helpful characteristics of a crisis counselor? Describe those you possess and hope to develop.
Crisis counselors are as distinct as the patients they treat. To us, the primary characteristics of a successful counselor are empathy and education. In our case, we possess the knowledge, but understanding has been hard to attain. Most of the times, counselors are asked to maintain a rational approach to patients, and might be hard to understand that to help real patients, one must be aware of our coping mechanisms to help the others.
The McGonigal talk showed us that one of the main characteristics a counselor has to possess is empathy. In the same way, understanding how stress works, and stop demonizing it has proven to be a good strategy to prevent all the health problems related to it.
American Psychological Association (2012). Stress in America survey. Retrieved July 11 2015, from http://www.apa.org/news/press/releases/stress/2011/final2011.pdfMcGonigal, K. (2013). How to make stress your friend. Retrieved July 11, 2015, from http://www.ted.com/talks/kelly_mcgonigal_how_to_make_stress_your_friend/transcript?language=en#t-413483 }
Taylor, S. (2012). Health psychology (8th ed.). New York: Random House.
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