“There is nothing either good or bad but thinking makes it so.” William Shakespeare
I have always thought and taught that stress is debilitating and should be avoided, with tips regarding how to accomplish that. This can be true if the stress is ongoing without relief. Prolonged stress can lead to fatigue, exhaustion, illness and breakdown. However, it has been found that many of the less chronic stressful situations we experience can be managed – if we change our attitude toward stress.
An eight-year study conducted by UW-Madison researchers determined that “the participants with high levels of stress were more likely to die, BUT only if they also believed that stress was harmful to their health. The people with high levels of reported stress who did not believe that stress was harmful actually had the lowest risk of death of any group in the study.”
Think about a time in your life when you performed at your highest level or experienced significant personal growth. It is highly likely that you were under stress and felt challenged.
There is a physical reason for this. When we are stressed, research has shown that our bodies secrete hormones that protect the body from harm by rebuilding cells, synthesizing proteins, and enhancing immunity. These hormones actually make the body healthier and stronger. As a result, stress can enhance our performance and productivity, increase our brain functioning speed, improve our memory, focus our attention, increase our mental toughness, facilitate learning and growth, and improve our health and vitality. Stress can provide that shot of adrenaline that helps us handle last minute crises and manage tight deadlines.
The key is whether we believe stress is debilitating or life enhancing. It all comes down to our mindset about stress.
The Stanford University Rethink Stress Intervention program suggests a proven three-step process that will help to build a helpful mindset about stress:
Step 1: Acknowledge stress when you experience it and notice how it impacts you psychologically and physically.
Step 2: Recognize that stress is a response to something you care about. Try to connect to the positive motivation behind the stress.
Step 3: Make use of the energy that stress gives you.
For these steps to be effective, they need to be second nature- which means they need to be practiced daily. It helps if you set a specific time or action each day when you can review the three steps.
So, it comes down to one’s mindset. Stress is only good or bad if you think it so.
May your learning be sweet- and safe.