How to Make Stress Your FRIEND!

screenshot of Kelly McGonigal's TED talk about stress

We know that dyslexics and struggling students have elevated stress levels. We also know that parents of struggling readers do too, as they see their children struggling and are unsure how to help.

For years, health psychologist, Kelly McGonigal, has told people that stress is unhealthy. It’s bad for your body. Stress is the enemy. But, in a recent Ted Talk, she tells why she has changed her mind about stress.

McGonigal cites the 2012 study that made her rethink her whole approach, “Does the perception that stress affects health matter?” by scientists from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. The study tracked 30,000 adults in the U.S. for 8 years and started by asking participants how much stress they had experienced in the past year. The participants were also asked if they believed that stress was harmful to them. The study then used public death records to see who died!

The study found that people who experienced a lot of stress in the past year had 43% increased chance of dying, BUT this was only true for the people who viewed stress as harmful to their health. Those who had the same amount of stress but did not view it as harmful were not more likely to die. In fact, they had the lowest risk of dying of anyone in the study—even those who had very small amounts of stress.

Can changing how you think about stress make you healthier?

Science and Kelly McGonigal say yes.

Common reactions to stressful situations are increased heart rate, heavy breathing, and sweating…we’ve all been there. Normally, we view these reactions as signs of anxiety, or our bodies not coping with the stressful situation very well.

Kelly McGonigal suggests we view these physical reactions as our body’s way of preparing us to meet the challenge. Interpret your stress response as helpful. A pounding heart is preparing you for action. If you’re breathing faster, it’s getting more oxygen to your brain. How you think about stress matters.

Her goal as a health psychologist is to make people BETTER at stress. The next time your heart is pounding with stress, think to yourself ‘this is my body’s way of helping me rise to the challenge.’ And, according to McGonigal, when you think in that way, your body believes you, and your stress response becomes healthier.

If your child is experiencing stress due to a learning disability, contact us. We offer literacy support for children with learning disabilities via our highly customized online platform. And don’t forget to subscribe to our Blog below! 


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Sandie Barrie Blackley, MA/CCC

MA/CCC - Cofounder and CKO

Sandie is a speech-language pathologist with more than 30 years of experience in the private practice sector. She is Visiting Assistant Professor of Communication Sciences & Disorders at University of North Carolina Greensboro, and founder/owner of the Language & Learning Clinic, PLLC, a private practice in Elkin, NC, and Greensboro, NC, specializing in communication disorders, including disorders of reading and written language.