Stressed Out? Turn It to Your Advantage

Stress has gotten a bad rap. Everywhere you look, there are self-help books, articles, and gurus offering tips for reducing your stress levels. While it’s true that intense, prolonged periods of stress can have a negative impact on one’s health and well-being, moderate amounts can provide a variety of benefits. Researchers have found that our response to stress is determined, in part, by our mindset. If you believe that stress is something negative, you will be more likely to experience its detrimental effects. However, if you perceive it as facilitative rather than debilitative, it can help you achieve great things. Here are some ways that you can use stress to your benefit.

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Boost Motivation
Rather than thinking of stress as something to be avoided at all costs, think of it as a motivator. Use that anxious energy to fuel your determination, get things done, and try new solutions. The closer you come to a deadline, the more likely you’ll be to work on that project; make the most of it by embracing the rush.

Stress also helps us determine what’s most important. If you’re feeling stressed out about something, chances are, you need to give it more attention.

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Improve Focus
Stress isn’t just a motivator, it can also help us to perform better. It releases the hormone epinephrine, which can improve our focus and stamina. It can even increase our ability to learn new tasks and recall information. Humans have evolved to be most alert while worried; you may just do some of your best work under pressure.

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Ease Collaboration
Stress encourages us to set aside our differences and do whatever it takes to accomplish our goals. If you’re feeling stressed, it may be a good time to reach out and collaborate with colleagues. With the added focus and motivation, you could come up with some outside-the-box ideas.

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Pitfalls to Avoid
Despite the benefits listed above, stress brings with it some traps that are easy to fall into. Stress is only helpful in moderation, so be careful to keep it from getting out of hand. Start by taking care of yourself. Remember to eat regular meals and get a full night’s sleep (sleep plays an important role in our ability to regulate stress). If you have destructive coping habits, like overeating or drinking too much, these will only make you feel worse. Instead, unwind with a warm bath or a few minutes of meditation. Write a to-do list each day to better understand where you need to direct your focus.

Although too much stress can be a problem, a moderate amount can be healthy and motivating. If you learn to embrace the rush, the stress you feel can propel you to new heights and help you achieve more than you thought possible.