It is close to impossible to completely remove stressors from our life. But what if we could flip stress into something positive? According to recent research, people can have either ‘stress is enhancing’ or ‘stress is debilitating’ mindsets. People with a ‘stress is enhancing’ mindset often view things that scare them as challenges rather than threats.
If we use the woolly mammoth analogy - a ‘stress is enhancing’ mindset caveman would think: "Yeah, this mammoth is scary, but my body is going to give me what I need to face it and I am going to learn from it". But don't stress. Even if you don't automatically have a positive stress mindset, you can still be the 'stress is enhancing' caveman by training your brain. Education is key here. Short videos or journal articles teaching people about their stress response and how to channel this energy can help maximise performance.
So why not teach teenagers this? This is where my PhD comes in. Rather than giving teenagers a long tedious stress management program, my school-based intervention uses four five-minute videos to teach high school students about their attitudes towards stress, how stress can be both positive and negative and how they can use stress to their advantage. Before and after these videos I will look at their stress mindset, stress levels and mental health state.
In the end, these videos may be enough to help improve school performance, promote mental health and increase quality of life. Our stress response was designed to turn threats into challenges, so it’s time to face some woolly mammoths and fight for mental health now rather than later.