Turn stress to strength

Your body is amazing. It’s perfectly suited to the Earth’s environment and equips you  with a variety of defense mechanisms to ensure your survival. One of these defenses is stress. When you are frightened or stressed, the hormone cortisol floods into your body, releasing energy to make you ready to fight, flee, or – more relevant in today’s society – work harder. Unfortunately, daily life can give us a disproportionate number of situations that stress us.

But recent research suggests it’s not always the actual stress that’s a risk to your health but also how you think about it. That is, whether you see stress as a positive or a negative.

Stress prepares your body for challenges

Kelly McGonigal, a psychologist and researcher at Stanford University, believes that we can save lives by changing the way we think about stress. After collecting a number of recent studies showing the positive aspects of stress, she has concluded that stress is dangerous if you think it is. In one study, those who had positive thoughts about stress were in even better health than those who were not particularly stressed. In addition, a “stress is good for me attitude” led to better work performance and fewer psychological complications.

According to McGonigal it may help to try to look at stress as a resource that gives you more energy, and prepares you to meet challenges.

Tips for better stress management

You may have a lot of  challenges in a busy schedule with work deadlines, children to fetch or take to after-school activities, and dinners to make. And stress-related disorders such as anxiety and burnout are not something you can just snap out of. But before you reach that point, it may be worth trying McGonigal’s method of appreciating your stress, instead of worrying about how dangerous it is.

Here are some ways to turn stress to strength:

  • Once you know the typical signs of stress –  faster heart rate and faster breathing – think of this as confirmation that your body is working properly, and get ready to tackle the challenges.
  • Try to appreciate the effect of stress: that it makes you tougher, more alert and able to contribute more.
  • If you have the time and opportunity, use the boost of extra energy for a quick workout. Squats and plank can, for example, be done anywhere, even in the office.
  • When you’re stressed, your body is in so-called “fight or flight” mode. You could use this to say and do things you normally don’t dare. For example, you could request help from colleagues.
  • Think positively towards a solution – and use the extra power to realise the solution.
  • Enjoy the energy waves. They make you feel alive!
  • Use your power to say NO!

Sources: ted.com