Wish we could turn back time, to the good old days
When our momma sang us to sleep but now we’re stressed out.
Many of us can relate to these words from the Twenty One Pilots song Stressed Out. We don’t like stress. We try to avoid it, and when we feel it we try to get rid of it. We blame stress for keeping us from doing things that challenge us. We use it as an excuse when we don’t want to take on another project or activity. Stress has become a buzzword in our conversations:
- I’m so stressed!
- The stress is killing me!
- Don’t stress me out!
Actually, stress is a natural part of who we are. It is simply a physiological change in our bodies when we experience fear, discomfort, or challenge. Stress can be bad for us, but it can also be good.
In her book, The Upside of Stress, Kelly McGonigal talks about the benefits of stress. “The latest science reveals that stress can make you smarter, stronger, and more successful. It helps you learn and grow. It can even inspire courage and compassion.” She adds,
The best way to manage stress isn’t to reduce or avoid it, but rather to rethink and even embrace it.
This seems contradictory to everything we have been taught about stress, and is therefore difficult to believe. However, the research supports her claim.
My own experience tells me that she is right.
I remember being afraid to speak in front of groups, and even more fearful of dealing with conflict situations. However, my career depended upon me doing these things on a regular basis. When I learned to think differently about the stress I experienced before any of these activities, I found that it gave me more energy and focus. The stress didn’t go away. Even after years of doing these things, I still feel stress. But instead of be avoiding it or trying to get rid of it, I try to embrace it.
How do you make this shift? According to McGonigal, its quite simple. You change your mindset about stress. “Adopting a more positive view of stress reduces what we usually think of stress-related problems and helps people thrive under high levels of stress.”
Dictionary.com list these synonyms for stress: significance, meaning, emphasis, consequence; weight, value, worth. When we feel stress, it is a sign that what is causing the stress has meaning for us, or else we would not be stressed about it. Studies also show that people who experience stress have a more meaningful life and a stronger sense of purpose.
If you avoid stress, you will never accomplish anything of significance.
Try shifting your thinking about stress with these five ideas:
- When you feel stress about something, ask yourself, “What is the significance of this for me? or What is the value that it holds?
- Take a values assessment. You can find one here, or create your own. Knowing your core values will help you rethink why you experience stress.
- Put this message on your laptop or bathroom mirror, “A little stress can be a good thing.”
- When you have to do something that makes you stressed, embrace the stress as a positive energy to help you succeed.
- Find a coach to help you shift your thinking about the stressors in your life. A good coach will guide you through a process of changing your mindset about your fears, self-doubt, and barriers to success. Contact me for a free consultation to learn more.
We all get stress out. It is how we view that stress that can either help us or harm us.