How Being Spooked Is Good For You
I usually focus on how to reduce stress, but in light of the day at hand, I’m switching directions. Some stress is good for you, and that includes some good old-fashioned fear. (Happy Halloween, by the way.)
Whether it’s the latest horror movie, a haunted house, or a good old-fashioned “jump out from behind the door – BOO!”, there are benefits to that short-term stress-spike. That’s why today you should look for more tricks than treats (because the sugar will not do good things for you)!
Adrenaline is your friend! The stress response begins in your brain and then the domino effect ends up triggering your adrenaline production. That puts your body in a temporary “emergency mode.” Your pulse quickens, blood pressure increases, and eyes dilate. You don’t want to stay like this for elongated periods of time, but in these short bursts, this increases your stamina and strength for endurance under stress. For some reason, it sounds counter-intuitive that certain types of stress would increase your capacity for stress, but look at it in the same way you would weightlifting. You start out with light weights and work your way up as you gain strength.
You become focused and highly alert. Adrenaline is not the only thing that is pushed into high-production. Norepinephrine is the secret sauce that gives you clarity during an emergency. This is why I pop into high gear and somehow know exactly what to do when someone screams for help – my norepinephrine production is right on track! First, embrace your fear, and then embrace your secret sauce and come up with some super-focused ideas while your juices are flowing!
This is the time period in which cortisol is your friend. Cortisol is the stress hormone that cues all sorts of areas of your body to do different things – including using your fat storage areas to start packing on the pounds. Excessive cortisol also hurts your sex drive, causes blood pressure problems, and damages your immune system. We don’t want a continual over-production of cortisol, however, in small doses, it does wonderful things; It helps your bodily functions regulate according to your circumstances – like the usage of bodily fluids and immunity to exposures.
It makes you take action. When your body is thrust into a short-term “emergency” mode, it causes you to take action, which is good! Action means movement and thought – which are both signs of a healthy body.
Your funny bone is tickled. The type of fear sparked by going through a haunted house ends up causing an array of physical reactions including laughter. The laughter may first be a nervous reaction, however, ends up being genuine happiness in the end. Laughter not only gives your muscles a workout but is a cue for your feel-good hormone production. We all want more of those. Why? Because they feel good, of course!
Socially, this is where you want to be. The best memories are made when your amygdala is in full gear. That’s the area of your brain where the stress response starts. Think back to your most vivid memories. They did not get cemented in your brain because they were boring; they made a mark there because they were something to be remembered… either during extreme happiness, sadness, fear, or joy. When you experience instances of fear and are with other people, you have deepening relationships with those people because of the common tie to a “high-amygdala” moment. So yes, buy the group tickets for the next thriller. Go through the haunted house… just make sure you’re with the people with whom you’d like to be close friends. It’ll work like a dream. You’ll have common memories and things about which less exciting times can be spent reminiscing, which helps to solidify and enrich the memories.
If I’ve coached you or if you have attended one of my Stress-Expert Masterclasses, you know that all of this can also go the other way. When you suffer from chronic stress, all of these things happen to your body in a long-term way, and that’s not good – at all.
That’s the reason GILD exists: to help people lower their resting stress and anxiety level. However, for today- on this, All Hallow’s Eve – take in a few frights to help train your body on what to do with all of those hormones, how to process them and then let them go and return to normal. It’s good for you!