Stress and Mortality, it’s Your Choice

Stress is generally considered an ugly word, used to describe a harmful condition. It’s touted as a major cause of hypertension, hardening of the arteries and heart attacks.

stressIt triggers the “fight or flight” response which can save our lives in extreme circumstances.

Stress can provide the tension necessary to get things done. To motivate us to rise to challenges. To achieve excellence in many aspects of life. Tension must always be resolved, either by adapting to the new conditions, overcoming and thriving on them or being overcome by the conditions, surrendering to them, giving up, being broken by them.

Why does stress motivate some of us and kill others?

My experience from observing how people survived extremely stressful conditions has convinced me that it is not the stressful situation that is the problem, but our reaction to it. We can choose to see it as a challenge to overcome. We can accept that it is not a defect in our personality, bad luck or punishment for real or imagined sins.

We can accept that whatever is causing the stress is an event, nether good or bad, just an event. The event and its consequences may be out of our control.

Our reaction to stress is entirely within our control.

We can choose to survive, overcome and thrive, or we can choose to surrender and become a victim.

Now there is evidence to support the idea that it is our beliefs about stressful events and situations and our choices in the way we respond that matter.

A recent article in Uri Galimidi’s newsletter “The Will to Change” quoted a study by Dr. Abiola Keller which asked 28 000 people two questions about stress.It then tracked those people to see who died over an eight year period.

The findings were intriguing.

People who experienced high stress & believed it is harmful to their health had a 43% higher probability of dying prematurely.

People who experienced high stress & did not believe it harmful to their health were 17% less likely to die prematurely.

* Compared to people who did not experience high stress.

It seems that if you can handle stress you can expect to live longer than people who do not experience it, or are unable to handle it.

Adversity can be the crucible that forges, determination, perseverance. It can build strength of character, inspire you to achieve great things. Or it can grind you down, reduce you to the depths of despair.

It’s your choice.

Yesterday, I read this quotation by Wells Fargo CEO John Stumpf:

“The goal in life is not necessarily knowledge, it’s wisdom, and you learn a lot of wisdom through hardship.”

How do you choose to handle adversity and stress?

Leave a comment.

graphic courtesy Stuart Miles /

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