Successful people are the ones who have learned to make stress work for them.
Oct 1, 2021
by Deep Patel, 2019
Chronic stress often leaves us feeling overwhelmed and mired in a negative mindset that fatigues us mentally and physically. We feel powerless when stressful situations engulf us, but stress is an inevitable part of life. Used effectively it can motivate us to accomplish more than we had imagined possible. Stress can jolt us to reach our potential. Without stress, we’d feel rudderless and without purpose.
However, while a little stress can help us stay motivated, chronic stress can leave us irritable, depressed, distracted and anxious. Learn to walk the line between beneficial tension and overwhelming drama. With these seven proven strategies, you can turn even the most stressful situation into an opportunity for success.
1. Understand that stress helps us function.
Not all stress is bad for you. There are different kinds of stress, and some serve an important purpose. “Good stress,” which psychologists refer to as “eustress,” is the stress we feel when we’re excited about something.
For example, it’s the emotion you have when you land your first big client: you’re pumped, but you also recognize that you have a lot of work ahead of you. This is the kind of stress we might feel when we go on a roller coaster or on a first date. It gives us the kind of intense emotion and excitement that makes us feel alive, inspired and passionate.
There’s also acute stress when something surprises us or catches us off guard. Acute stress is the body’s response to ensure you react and take measures to deal with the unexpected situation. This is the essential jolt we need to deal with anything that pops up, whether good or bad.
Acute stress has no lasting negative effects if we deal with it quickly and move on. Once the stressor has been dealt with, our body can return to a happy, healthy pre-stress state.
2. Build your resilience.
Stress is fundamental to us functioning effectively. Without a little stress lighting the fire under our feet, we’d be less productive and motivated to get things done. Embrace stress as something that helps you build resilience.
Resilience is how we deal with stress effectively so we “bounce back” after a difficult time. As we deal with issues that cause tension and strain, we learn to face adversity, deal with significant issues and overcome problems. We learn how to formulate realistic plans and carry them out.
Dealing with acute stress means building the life skills you need to become even more successful. Nobody becomes successful without taking on a multitude of stressful situations and learning to manage their feelings in the heat of the moment. As we learn strategies for working through stressful situations, we also gain self-confidence and a deeper understanding of ourselves.
3. Deal with chronic stress.
While some stress can be positive, there are problematic forms of stress that harm our mental and physical health. Even “good stress” left to fester unresolved for too long can turn into bad stress.
This is chronic stress, which persists over an extended period of time. Chronic stress can be debilitating and leave us overwhelmed, anxious and exhausted. It can cause insomnia, high blood pressure and a weakened immune system. This kind of stress is associated with heart disease, depression and obesity.
It’s imperative that you find strategies for dealing with stress in healthy ways before these issues become a big problem. Tap into your support system by reaching out to friends and loved ones. With assistance from others, you’ll can face challenges and problems head-on. Doing so will give you a sense of accomplishment and resolution.
4. Recognize your limits.
The golden rule for dealing with stress is knowing when to say no. You have to learn to refrain from accepting more commitments than you are capable of handling. Of course, this is easier said than done, because no one enjoys saying no. Most of us like to think we can fit it all in, doing everything and then some. But when we take on too much, we open ourselves up to bigger problems and chronic stress.
When we’re careful and thoughtful about our commitments, we give ourselves the bandwidth to deal with stressful situations and recover from them. We must learn what our limitations are and set boundaries to ensure we keep nonessential obligations off our plates. Don’t kill yourself trying to make everyone happy and squeeze everything in. Know your limits and give yourself space to work to the best of your ability.
5. Determine what you can control.
The brutal truth about life is that you have no control over much of what happens to you. Take a moment to think about the things under your control. The reality is, there’s a lot that’s completely out of your control but . In fact, all you have direct control over is yourself and your actions. You have sway and influence over a variety of other things, but you can only completely control yourself. So stay in control of yourself and don't blame others for your actions.
Here’s an important lesson: your attitude and the mindset you project is how you influence situations, for better or worse. To be successful and happy in life, use your energy effectively to create situations that work for you, while recognizing that you don’t control everything. Accept when things don’t work out and understand that you’re doing your best.
6. Differentiate between ruminating and problem-solving.
It isn’t helpful to constantly replay negative interactions and hurtful conversations, and allow yourself to dwell on adverse situations and outcomes. On the other hand, solving a problem and learning from mistakes is absolutely necessary to success.
So, when you find yourself stuck on something and are rehashing it in your mind, ask yourself whether you’re ruminating or actually problem-solving. Are you examining lessons learned or fixating on an issue? Make sure that you’re focused on seeking solutions, thinking about ways to mitigate an issue or how to prevent problems from blowing up even bigger.
If you’re being productive, by all means continue! But if you’re stuck in a negative thought loop, it’s time to switch the channel. Change your activity and focus on something else -- this is a more effective use of time and will help you stay on track for success.
7. Find the opportunity.
Stress comes from the unpredictable. At its core, stress is indicative of change -- something is happening and you’re forced to respond to that demand. When you find yourself under stress, recognize that you’re confronting new challenges and situations that could take you in a new direction.
Try to condition yourself to see stress as an opportunity and use it to your advantage. Stress can help you embrace change and make any necessary modifications. Stressful situations force us to make adjustments, innovate and be creative.
Take a look back at your life. Some of your most significant achievements have probably been the result of stressful circumstances that forced you to transform in some way. By changing your mindset and looking at stress as a door to new solutions and opportunities, you’ll reframe a problem as a possibility. Don’t let stress hold you back. Find ways to harness that inner tension; to create new paths and make new connections. Use stress as a catalyst for necessary change and a chance to create more favorable circumstances.