How can I use stress to my advantage?

Published by Editor's Desk
Category : stress

 

What People are talking about stress and its effects?


 

'I wanted to talk about the current project. The deadlines are tight, and I’m finding it hard to juggle everything. I’m committed to delivering quality work, but the stress is affecting my focus and productivity.'

 

'Lately, I’ve noticed that I’m having trouble sleeping and I’m constantly tired. The pressure to meet targets and expectations is really weighing on me, and I’m concerned about how it’s affecting my health and well-being.'

 

'I feel like I’m always ‘on’ and it’s starting to wear me down. The expectation to be constantly available and responsive is creating a lot of stress, and I’m struggling to find a balance between work and my personal life.'



 

So what happened?

 

Many of us find it hard to handle stress because of how our bodies and minds react to tough situations and the way society views stress as a sign of weakness. Our natural reactions can make us feel more anxious and unsure. But admitting we’re stressed is key. It helps us understand ourselves better and see stress not just as a problem, but also as a chance to grow stronger. When we accept stress, we can figure out what causes it and use its energy in a positive way. This turns stress into a tool for building strength, coming up with new ideas, and doing better at our tasks. Owning up to and understanding our stress is the starting point to making it work for us.


 

What can we do about it?

 

 Reframe Your Perspective:

 

Stress often narrows our focus, making us zero in on the source of our anxiety. However, this heightened focus can be redirected. Instead of viewing stress as a threat, consider it a surge of energy and heightened alertness meant to enhance your performance.

 

 Creative Fuel:

 

- Insight: Stress stimulates brain activity. This increased brain activity can be channeled into creative thinking and innovation.

- Action: When stressed, engage in brainstorming sessions. The heightened focus can lead to breakthrough ideas.

 

 The “Stress-As-Enhancement” Strategy:

 

One practical and less common approach is adopting a “stress-as-enhancement” mindset. This involves interpreting the physiological and emotional responses to stress - like a fast heartbeat or anxious feeling - as preparatory and performance-enhancing.

 

For instance:

 

- Fast Heartbeat: View it as your body gearing up and energizing you for the upcoming task.

- Anxiety: Consider it a heightened state of alertness that enhances focus and clarity.

 

 Implementable Steps:

 

- Mindful Reflection: Regularly take a moment to interpret your stress signals positively. It’s not about denying stress but reinterpreting the sensations.

- Journaling: Write down your stress signals and alongside, note the positive interpretations and outcomes. It reinforces the “stress-as-enhancement” mindset.

 

 Example in Action:

 

When a big presentation induces stress, instead of succumbing to anxiety, reinterpret the fast heartbeat as your body’s way of fueling you with energy and the nervousness as heightened alertness meant to sharpen your focus. Use this reinterpreted energy and focus to refine your presentation, practice it with enthusiasm, and deliver it with confidence.

 

By actively reinterpreting the emotional and physiological responses to stress, you can transform it from a debilitating force into a powerful ally that enhances your creativity, focus, and performance.


 

Can I read more about it somewhere?

 

Certainly! A highly recommended book on this topic is 'The Upside of Stress: Why Stress Is Good for You, and How to Get Good at It' by Kelly McGonigal.

 

 Key Takeaways:

 

1. Stress is Not Always Harmful:

   - McGonigal argues against the common belief that stress is always bad for you. She presents research and evidence showing that stress can make us stronger, smarter, and happier—if we learn how to embrace it.

 

2. Embracing Stress:

   - The book suggests that changing our mindset about stress can make us healthier and more productive. When we stop fearing stress and start viewing it as a natural, manageable response, it loses its power to harm us.

 

3. The “Stress Response” vs. “Stress Mindset”:

   - Our physical and mental reactions to stress are influenced by our perception of it. If we view stress as a challenge rather than a threat, our bodies respond in ways that help us perform well.

 

4. Social Connection:

   - Stress encourages social connection by triggering the release of oxytocin, often referred to as the 'cuddle hormone.' This hormone encourages us to seek and provide social support, strengthening our relationships.

 

5. Personal Growth:

   - Stressful experiences, when approached with the right mindset, can lead to personal growth, increased strength, greater appreciation for life, and improved focus on one’s priorities.

 

 How This Book Can Help:

McGonigal’s 'The Upside of Stress' provides insights and practical tools to transform your relationship with stress. By understanding and reinterpreting the physical and emotional responses to stress, you can turn it into a force for good—a source of strength, resilience, and growth. It’s a guide to not just managing stress, but harnessing it to enhance your life and well-being.

 

I don't get it.. Tell me more 


 

Stress makes us feel anxious and overwhelmed because of the pressure and fear of not doing well. But, what if we change how we think about stress? Instead of seeing it as something bad, we can view it as a source of energy and focus. Ask yourself, 'How can this extra energy help me do better?' or 'Can my worry make me more careful and detailed?' By accepting that we’re stressed and looking at it as a helper rather than an enemy, we can use that extra energy and alertness to be more creative, solve problems, and get our work done efficiently. So, next time stress kicks in, ask, 'What can this stress help me achieve?' and 'How can I use this feeling to improve my work or solve a problem?' Turning stress into a tool can make us stronger and more successful.



 

Here’s a depiction of an employee who has mastered the art of coping with stress beneficially:

 

You’ve turned the tables on stress. Instead of a foe, it’s now your ally, a secret weapon that propels you to unprecedented productivity and innovation. When a challenging project lands on your desk, where anxiety once bloomed, now there’s an invigorating mix of anticipation and excitement. You’ve learned the art of positive reinterpretation - every heartbeat, every surge of adrenaline is a step closer to your peak performance.

 

You ask yourself, “How can this energy be channeled creatively?” Each project, regardless of its complexity, is an opportunity for growth, a canvas for your innovation. You’ve mastered the practice of mindfulness; it anchors you, transforming potential anxiety into a laser-sharp focus. Stress doesn’t scatter your thoughts; it aligns them, turning every challenge into a masterpiece of efficiency and creativity.

 

Your colleagues notice the spark in your conversations, the unwavering focus, and the resilience that defines your work ethic. Stress, once a shadow, is now the light that illuminates your path to excellence. You don’t just meet deadlines, you redefine them, turning every project into a testament of your mastery over stress. You’ve not just coped with stress; you’ve transformed it, and in this alchemy, you’ve discovered the zenith of your professional potential.



 

In case you are wondering, there are some more problem and their alternatives
 

Using Your Stress to Your Advantage: Transforming Pressure into Power

The Four Types of People You Need to Live a Stress-Free Work Life

Stressors That You Can Control and Those You Can't: Navigating the Balance

5 Uncommon Stressors at Work and How to Deal with Them

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How can I go from burnout to self care

What People are talking about burnout?

I feel like my body is running on adrenaline. It’s as if I am trying to run a marathon at a sprint pace - every single day at work.

I have been consistently experiencing high levels of stress and I didn’t take steps to manage or reduce it. Eventually this led to exhaustion, physical and emotional burn out!

I just can’t say “no” and felt that I would let someone down by refusing an assignment. So I took on too much work leading up to stress and burnout. 


So what happened?

Your decision to begin your journey from burnout to self care is itself a sign of how far you’ve come. From a professional wanting to work hard and succeed to someone being overwhelmed and overworked for so long and then finally experiencing burnout is a long and arduous process. You’ve already crossed the first step of recognizing burnout and now you must slowly but steadily rid yourself of all of its symptoms. Since burnout happened to you gradually, affecting your ability to function across all aspects of life, you must prepare yourself for an incremental approach to the burnout recovery process. 

What can we do about it?

Focus on sustainability

The key to transitioning from this state of exhaustion to one of rejuvenation lies in embracing sustainability in your self-care practices. The next time an assignment is presented to you, ask yourself “Can I do this with the same intensity for the next few weeks?” If there’s a task that you don’t enjoy, ask yourself “for how long can I continue doing this task without feeling bored and unmotivated?” Instead of tolerating a stressful situation for long periods of time, address it at the beginning with the idea of sustainability at the back of your mind.

Secondly, sustainability in self-care means recognizing and respecting our limits. It involves setting healthy boundaries, saying no when necessary, and understanding that rest is not a luxury, but a fundamental need. It's about listening to our body and mind, and responding with kindness and patience.

Lastly, sustainable self-care is about finding balance. It’s not just about relaxation and downtime, but also about finding joy and engagement in activities you love, fostering relationships that nourish you, and pursuing goals that give you a sense of purpose.

Can I read more about it somewhere?

"The Thriving Therapist: Sustainable Self-Care to Prevent Burnout and Enhance Well-Being" by Matthew A. Hersh, Ph.D., is a holistic and comprehensive guide aimed at psychotherapists and mental health professionals. It emphasizes the importance of sustainable self-care practices, particularly for those dedicated to caring for others. The book, born from Dr. Hersh's personal experiences, including a life-threatening illness, offers a nuanced view on self-care, integrating wisdom from various sources with the author's own insights as a psychologist, therapist, and cancer survivor​​.

Here are three main takeaways from the book:

  • Integrative Approach to Self-Care: The book provides an integrative view of self-care, combining research, self-reflection exercises, personal anecdotes, and practical techniques. It encourages readers to actively engage in self-care rather than passively reading about it​​.
  •  
  • Evidence-Based Guidance: Dr. Hersh offers a well-researched, evidence-based guide to restoring health, mental well-being, and idealism for mental health professionals. This is particularly relevant in our increasingly stressed society, where mental health professionals often experience burnout​​.
  •  
  • Tools for Mindful Coping: The book is a reflective guide that provides tools, guides, and wisdom for mindful coping. It supports helping professionals and others in developing skills to care for themselves while they care for others, emphasizing the balance between personal well-being and professional responsibilities​​.

Dr. Hersh's background as a clinical psychologist, mindfulness teacher, and energy psychology practitioner, along with his personal journey and professional experience, enriches the content of the book, making it a valuable resource for professionals in the mental health field​​.

I don't get it.. Tell me more 

When transitioning from a state of burnout to embracing self-care, it's crucial to engage in self-reflection. This process allows you to understand your needs, set boundaries, and develop a sustainable self-care routine. By asking yourself the right questions, you can uncover the root causes of your burnout and create a tailored approach to your well-being. Here are five important questions to guide this introspective journey:

What are my primary stressors? Identifying the specific sources of your stress can help you address them more effectively.

How do I typically respond to stress, and is it effective? Understanding your current coping mechanisms can reveal if they're helping you or potentially contributing to your burnout.

What activities genuinely rejuvenate me? It's essential to distinguish between activities that truly refresh you and those that might be escapism or short-term fixes.

What boundaries do I need to set for my health and well-being? Recognizing where you need to set limits can help you conserve energy and prioritize your well-being.

How can I integrate self-care into my daily routine? Consider practical ways to incorporate self-care into your everyday life, ensuring it's sustainable and not just a temporary fix.

By pondering these questions, you can begin to develop a deeper understanding of your needs and how best to meet them on your path to recovery and well-being.

Here’s what an ideal burnout to self care journey looks like:

Imagine yourself as an employee on a journey from burnout to embracing self-care:

Morning Ritual: Your day starts with a new ritual. Instead of immediately checking emails, you take a few minutes for meditation or deep breathing. This helps set a calm tone for the day.

Commute with Mindfulness: On your commute, you listen to relaxing music or a motivational podcast. This time becomes a transition period, mentally preparing you for the day ahead.

Structured Work Hours: At work, you diligently adhere to structured hours. You've learned to prioritize tasks, focusing on what's important and letting go of perfectionism in less critical tasks.

Regular Breaks: Every hour, you take a short break. It might be a walk around the office, some stretching, or a moment of mindfulness. These breaks help reduce mental fatigue and maintain focus.

Healthy Lunch Breaks: You commit to taking a full lunch break away from your desk. This time is for unwinding, enjoying a healthy meal, and perhaps a brief walk outside.

Effective Communication: You communicate more openly with your team and supervisor about your workload. When feeling overwhelmed, you ask for help or delegation, creating a supportive work environment.

After-Work Unwind: After work, you engage in activities that you enjoy and that help you relax - it could be a hobby, exercise, or spending time with loved ones.

Evening Routine: You have an evening routine that signals to your brain that the workday is over. This might include journaling, reading, or a relaxing bath.

Quality Sleep: You prioritize getting enough sleep, understanding its vital role in recovery and health.

Reflect and Adjust: Each day, you reflect on what worked well and what could be improved. You adjust your self-care practices accordingly, understanding that recovery is a dynamic process.

By incorporating these practices into your daily routine, you gradually recover from burnout, transforming your work life into a more balanced and fulfilling experience.

In case you are wondering, there are some more problem and their alternatives

10 Signs That You Are Overworked

7 Tips to Manage Your Time and Energy

Ways to Prioritize SelfCare and WellBeing