5 days of pure relaxation. This has been our schedule here in Crete, which is one of the most beautiful places I know. Five days in which I turned off my phone, left the world behind me, and split my time between lying in the sun, and diving into the cool deep waters of the Mediterranean Sea. Short vacations is what I am hoping to do more regularly, as it completely dilutes all the stresses that normal week days have build in within me. And they give me time to reflect.

Speaking about stress: Apparently, there is a 43% increase in risk to die faster if people are exposed to stress.  However, in a very interesting Ted talk with Kelly McGonigal, she made the stunning distinction that stress is only harmful if we think it is. In other words, our belief about stress is what makes it so dangerous to our health. According to her, this is due to the following two reasons:

Firstly, stress is a hormone that energizes our body to prepare to respond to any challenging we face. Under stress, our blood vessels constrict when our heart starts to pound, but a change in mindset about stress- seeing it as a way our body is helping us respond to a challenge, also changes our physical response, and the blood vessels stay relaxed.

Secondly, stress heals our heart. Under stress, we release the hormone “oxytocin”, which fine tunes the brains social instincts to crave contact and help others. Our heart has receptors for this hormone, so that oxytocin can help the heart cells regenerate and heal from stress induced damage. As a result, oxytocin helps us build resilience through human connections, while healing the heart.

According to McGonigal, the right mindset is therefore to trust ourselves that we can handle the challenges we face. Within this context stress, it serves to view stress as our response by our body that generates strength and courage, ideally with the help and support of the people close to us, to motivate us to achieve our goals and progress in our lives. With this slight shift in attitude, she argues that stress has no negative impact on our health.

To me, this sounds fascinating, especially as I look at this gorgeous sea. I plan diving into the cold water one more time, and wash away all those negative thoughts I have about stress. I must say, I am enjoying these blissful moments without any stress, but also agree that if I am going to have stressful times again in the future, than I might as well have them with a positive mindset 😉

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