5 Ways to Make Stress Work for You

by Kaitlin Gunter, Copywriter - 04/07/16

Stress often gets a bad reputation, but what if you welcomed it and found better outcomes as a result? 


Stanford psychologist Kelly McGonical’s TED Talk continues to make many people rethink how they perceive stress and connect it with healthy outcomes. If stress is connected to growth or opportunistic thinking and helps you focus and prioritize, it becomes a positive change agent. Stress only overturns your life and negatively affects your relationships and activities if you give it the power to become overbearing and destructive.

As Kelly puts it, stress can lead us to create space for more meaning to take place. Help make stress work for you by adding these steps to your routine.

1. Make Time for Stress

Have you ever been under a tight deadline and you’ve powered through and had a successful outcome? If so, you’ve seen how productive you can be when you’re facing a stressful situation. Instead of living in fear of tight deadlines and seemingly overwhelming to-do lists, move into the moment and battle stressful situations head on. Find a thrill from welcoming stress into your day. Many experts suggest setting aside time each morning to tackle large projects. For smaller tasks, be Johnny-on-the-spot and do them right away. It can be invigorating to cross items off your list.

2. Make Time for Failure

Neuroscientist Daniel Levitin encourages us to plan for failure. He suggests setting organizational rules that you follow as second nature so when something does go wrong, you know where to turn in chaotic moments. Location is a key word here—be specific about where you place emails, documents, and lists, and then realize some items may slip through the cracks. If and when this happens, you have a backup plan in place and won’t overly stress about the unknown.

3. Make Time for People 

Stress can cause the pituitary gland to release oxytocin, a hormone that makes us want social connection. The interactions you have with others can help you build support and emotional strength, and the workplace collaborations that may develop can allow you to brainstorm with peers on projects and provide resources for help when you need it.

4. Make Time for Physical Activity and Sleep

Take brain breaks during the day to stretch your neck, arm, hand, and leg muscles. Conduct meetings outside and talk while you walk. With the extra activity, your muscles will tire more easily and you can then shift to an earlier bedtime—a productive strategy for sustained success. If you can’t find a solution during work hours, press your internal pause button, sleep and wake refreshed.

5. Make Time to Reset Your Mind-set

We grew up thinking of stress as a negative thing. It takes time and many opportunities to change our thinking. Take a few minutes every morning to remind yourself why stress matters and how you can better interact with it.

The Bottom Line

Stress helps us be more inventive, more engaged with others, and more in tune with our environment and goals. Stop kicking stress out of your life—it’s doing greater work behind the scenes.

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