How stressed do you feel right this second? I’d like to think you aren’t feeling too stressed, I hope you’re settled down with a cup of something delicious feeling relaxed and excited to read this incredible post… OK, I’m probably being a little ambitious there, but hey.
However stressed you’re feeling, chances are you’ve encountered stress recently. Sadly a lot of us are anxious and stressed these days, and while there’s a whole host of reasons for this, that’s not what we’re here to talk about today.
Today I want to look at stress and understand when it can actually be a good thing.
Stress, ultimately, is there to protect us and keep us safe. It triggers a physical response so our body is more alert and better able to fight or run the f**k away.
The problem is, this stress response gets triggered by all sorts of non-life-threatening things (like emails and walking through Primark). Because of this, and because we can’t run away from some stressors, many of us experience prolonged stress – and this can seriously affect our health.
But in moderation, stress can actually be good for us.
When (moderate) stress is a good thing
According to doctor Google, low-level stressors encourage our brains to release chemicals called neurotrophins (oh yeah, we’re getting scientific guys, hold onto your lab coats). These chemicals strengthen neural connections, making us better able to concentrate.
Whether you love or loathe deadlines, they do act an incentive to get shit done. And more than that, this kind of stress actually makes us better at handling the situation. The trick is in how we view it, if we see it as a challenge rather than an obstacle, we’ll feel more motivated.
When we’re facing something tough
Experiencing stress, and overcoming it, helps us build resilience. We learn stress management skills and feel better able to handle difficult situations – and this boosts our confidence. Small stressors can also improve other skills like patience, tolerance and problem solving.
When change is on the horizon
Surviving stressful scenarios (for example, a relationship break up) helps us navigate change in the future. We can remember how we lived to tell the tale last time change happened and feel more confident when those winds of change start a’blowing again.
How to harness stress in a positive way
So it’s all well and good knowing that stress can actually be good for us, but how can we actually harness this power? Here are a few pointers:
- Change the way you look at stress, try to see it in a positive way.
- Note down what stress looks like to you (and how you respond).
- Learn what techniques help lower the intensity (e.g. yoga, meditation).
- Try physically stressing your body with exercise before a mentally taxing task.
- Journal when you overcome stress – what have you learnt?
Of course, I couldn’t talk about stress without acknowledging the darker side to it – when it builds up and becomes unbearable. So I’m covering this in my first ‘official’ edition of Blue Jay Monthly Musings.
I’ll be sharing resources I’ve scouted to help cope with excessive stress and making a ‘stress-less tool-kit’ for you to download. At the time of writing this blog post, I haven’t started making it… but I’m sure it’ll be great… I’m seeing it as a challenge, not an obstacle 😉
*edit – I’ve made it now and it is pretty great*
Anyway, subscribers will get this on Sunday 24th Sept. If you haven’t subscribed and you want to get involved, just sign up to the newsletter before Sunday (you’ll also get my 12-page confidence guide as a welcome present!).
How do you look at stress? Do you think it helps you in any situations?
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