Stress is very personal. What creates pressure and anxiety for one person might be the minimum level of responsibility needed to motivate someone else to get out of bed in the morning! We are different by nature, experience and genetic make up, but understanding more about what causes stress and how we can control it is a great step to harnessing the energy we can get from this powerful “force”. And it is a force – the fight or flight response that is created from being under stress also creates energy. Perhaps it appears as negative energy, but can we turn it into something positive? How can we make ourselves more “stress-hardy”? Perhaps by understanding the positive that can come out of the stress response. The fight or flight response is not the only one that can be activated.
At times, the tend and befriend response comes about with the production of certain hormones such as oxytocin that can be released in situations when we feel the need to reach out to loved ones, or strangers, to comfort them and increase our social contacts. This is often seen after tragic events have hit a community and this very connection reduces stress and can assist in recovery.
But we don’t need extreme events to try and turn our mindsets to believe that we are able to handle stress and in fact, can benefit from it. Some of the following are useful exercises for us to try out:
- When we notice our heart rate increase before a stressful event, realize that this is happening so that we have more energy to complete the task and use this energy to perform.
- Ask yourself, “Are nerves caused by the fact that what you are about to do is really important to you?” Does this situation have value in your life and therefore provide meaning?
- When stress rears its head, acknowledge it then turn your focus to the task at hand.
- Is your stress due to the fact that you are setting unrealistic expectations around what you can complete in a set time (day/week etc.)? Change your deadlines and to-do list so that they are more realistic and you can think clearly about one or two things instead of feeling overwhelmed by an undoable list.
- Switch your attention to someone else. Do something kind for another to get out of your head. You will feel differently about your workload.
- Ensure that you have good social networks. Communities support each other and caring creates resilience.
- If small events stress you, like having to wait on the phone for someone, remind yourself why you are doing this – is there a larger purpose? Are you gaining information for something that has importance in your life?
- Question why you are feeling stress and look for positive aspects. Is it making you stronger, are you feeling energized? Are you connecting with others? Are you feeling alive?
Once we start to see stress as merely a challenge that can help us grow, then we can learn to view it a different way and do just that – grow from it!
If you want to learn more about this interesting area, we have a full module of learning with comprehensive information and tools to use. To learn more about our Understanding Stress for you and your Clients course, CLICK HERE.
References: Healthbeat, October 2017 Harvard Medical School
The Upside of Stress, 2016, Kelly McGonigal