How Stress Can Be Good for You

Estimated watch time: 5 mins 31 secs


We tend to think stress is inherently bad, but that’s not always the case. Stress can actually be something we learn to use to our advantage. This guide walks you through how to embrace stress and your stress reaction. You can then move forward and adopt a growth mindset.

Video Materials:


Stress Management Part 3

In this lesson we will be going over how stress can be good for you.

We know that too much stress is harmful.

But sometimes you can use that jolt of adrenaline that triggers your fight-or-flight reaction to move forward in a healthy, positive way.

Research has shown that stress can heighten awareness, speed up thinking and improve performance.

Stress can help you thrive, be brave and improve work and life performance. It can give you that extra edge that pushes you to the next level.

But, it’s a balancing act. Too much stress and you experience stress symptoms, like irritability, fatigue, headaches or anxiety. Just enough stress and you can flourish.

You can harness the fight-or-flight response to your advantage. Use these approaches to manage and capitalize on your stress reaction.

  1.     Change your mindset.

You notice your stress reaction is triggered every time you think about going to work Monday morning, or out with your significant other on Friday night.

Instead of denial (It’s fine!), anger (Why me!) or overwhelm (I can’t handle this!) consider the alternatives.

Notice your denial, avoidance and emotional reactions. You cannot deny that feeling in the pit of your stomach or pounding headache that tells you things are not okay in your world. Instead of getting in a fight with someone or getting in bed and pulling the covers up, try to face the problem head on.

Recognize that denial, avoidance and emotional outbursts are not helpful. There’s no point staying angry about something stressful that happens routinely or that you cannot control. There’s no point in pretending it isn’t happening.

Acknowledge that this really is happening to you. Acknowledge that it does not have to be overwhelming.

Adopt a growth mindset. Stress is a signal. It’s telling you something. So, give it a big hello, invite it in, and have a coffee with it, while you figure out what the message is. Thank your stress for the opportunity it has offered. Accept the opportunity to welcome a needed change into your life.

Remind yourself that you’ve handled problems in the past. Figure out what’s next. This is a stress-is-positive mindset or a growth mindset.

  1.     Use the stress to move forward.

Pay attention to the causes and effects of stress so you can use the stress productively. Notice the ABCs(Antecedents, Behavioral reactions, and Consequences) of the stressful situation.

Identify the antecedents that trigger your stress. What is it about work or the relationship that triggers your stress reaction?

Identify the behavioral effects on your body and mind. What happens in your body? What happens emotionally? What happens to your thinking? What do you do, or not do?

Identify consequences, both desirable and undesirable. What happens if you stay in bed instead of going to work? How do you feel if you go out Friday night with your significant other and pretend nothing is wrong?

Avoidance and denial strategies reduce the stress reaction in the moment (desirable) but fail to bring lasting change (undesirable).

Decide on your desired goal and move toward it. Identify what you need to address at work and develop a plan to do so. What are the problems in the relationship that you need to confront—how can you do that?

Now you have strategies that capitalize on the stress you experience. You have something positive to work toward.

  1.     Cultivate acceptance.

Acceptance is a tricky business. On the one hand, you want to use your stress to move forward. On the other hand, some things are beyond your control.

It helps to sit down and figure out what part of the stress you can control, and what part you cannot control.

You can implement changes for the things you can control.

You can try to let go of the things you cannot control. This is tough and it takes practice.

Gratitude helps offset the stress of the uncontrollables. Take a few minutes daily to consider what you’re grateful for. Write it down. The attitude of gratitude will become second nature.

Change your negative self-talk (I’m never going to get over this). To positive self-talk (It may take a while, but I’ll be fine).

Rely on healthy lifestyle behaviors like eating, sleeping and exercising enough, spiritual practices and social support, to help you work on acceptance.

Adopt a growth mindset to help you let go. Acknowledge that a difficult circumstance is an opportunity to develop in new directions.

Find meaning in the experience. Do you feel more resilient and tougher? Do you have a feeling of mastery over the challenge? Did you learn something?

Stressful situations can be transformative. It’s easier to accept your lack of control when you can identify the growth you’ve experienced.

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