By Helen Sullivan, APR, Fellow PRSA

Gather ‘round ye who are under stress—and who isn’t? I just discovered a life-changing way to rethink your approach to stress that will reduce its negative impacts on your health.

Turns out that if you think stress is going to kill you, it just might. But if you take a positive view of stress, you increase the chance of warding off any dire effects. This is based on a study conducted in 2012 (wish I knew this five years ago!) at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. Nearly 28,000 people were part of the study.

According to Tara Parker-Pope, writing for the New York Times’ Smart Living column about the findings, “The study found that having a lot of stress in your life was not linked with premature death. But having a lot of stress in your life and believing it was taking a toll on your health increased risk of premature death by 43 percent.”

Three examples from the column will show you just how you can adjust your thinking:

  1. When I’m stressed, my body releases adrenaline and cortisol. My heart is beating faster. This means:
  • Common View: Stress is increasing my risk for cardiovascular disease and heart attack.
  • Alternative View: My heart is working harder and my body is mobilizing its energy to get ready for this challenge.
  1. When I’m stressed, my stress response is causing my breathing rate to increase. This means:
  • Common View: My fast breathing is a sign of anxiety. I worry about how stress is affecting my mental and physical health.
  • Alternative View: I should take a deep breath. My faster breathing means more oxygen is getting to my brain so I can think more clearly.
  1. When I’m stressed, blood vessels dilate, causing my blood to flow faster, increasing my blood pressure. This means:
  • Common View: I can feel my blood pressure rising. This can’t be good for my health.
  • Alternative View: This extra blood flow is fueling my muscles. I’m feeling stronger and ready for the challenge ahead.

So, think alternatively and have a healthy, maybe-it’s-good-for-you, stressful day as a parking professional!

Helen Sullivan, APR, Fellow PRSA, is IPI’s communications counsel.