Stress and Horse shows

Stress. It makes your heart pound, your breathing quickens and you start sweating and swearing   Normally, we interpret these physical changes as anxiety or signs that we aren’t coping very well with the pressure.   And for years we have been thought that stress is not good for our overall health.  In fact, for years, stress has been known as a public health issue.  

However, in a 2013 TED talk, Kelly McGonigal, a Health Psycologist, says that the way we view stress, may actually change its effect on our body.   When you change your mind about stress, you can change your body’s response to stress. 

According to McGonigal, studies show that when you choose to view your physical response to stress as helpful, you create a physical response resembling courage. (Oh, there is that word again)

One study showed that people who experienced a lot of stress but did not view stress as harmful had the lowest risk of dying of anyone in the study, including people who had relatively little stress. 

So, our bodies are a lot like our horses.  Our bodies know what we are thinking and act according.  Even when we don’t know what we are thinking.  We get tight and worried and our cardiovascular system goes nuts.  

If we learn to breathe and accept that our bodies are preparing us to take on a challenge, all is well. And that rapid breathing just gets more oxygen to our brains.

In a typical stress response, your heart rate goes up, and your blood vessels constrict.  This is one reason that chronic stress is sometimes associated with cardiovascular disease. It’s not really healthy for your heart to beat quickly while your blood vessels contract, especially for long periods of time.

But, when we view our stress as helpful, our blood vessels stay relaxed. Our heart will still be pounding, but this is a much healthier for our cardiovascular system. It actually looks more like what happens when we ride on a normal day. Stress when viewed as healthy can actually strengthen your heart.  

According to Kelly McGonigal, over a lifetime of stressful experiences, this biological change could be the difference between dying of a heart attack at age 50 and living into your 90s. 

You mean, if you change your mind and how you feel about stress you can actually change how your body reacts to stress?  Yes. According to Kelly McGonigal, you can.  And that is pretty cool.

Now, think of how we can use this information at a horse show.  Now you can say, that going to horse shows will help you live longer.  Because you are learning to deal with stress in a healthy way.  

Here is a little more info to help justify your horse show addiction. 

When we are stressed our bodies release Oxytocin.  Oxytocin provides extra protection for our cardiovascular system, because it helps our heart cells regenerate.   Oxytocin is a natural anti- inflammatory, known as the warm, fuzzy hormone that promotes feelings of love, and social bonding.  Oxytocin has been directly linked to enhanced communication between romantic partners especially during arguments.  And oxytocin has a positive impact on social behaviors related to relaxation, trust and overall psychological stability.

Next time your husband complains about the horse show expenses. And the stress they cause.   Just give him a copy of this post.  And tell him you are staying healthy.  You are exercising.  It is helping your marriage and your communication.  All in all, horse shows could be pretty cheap therapy.  

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