Are you stressed out? Have you noticed that people usually mention about stress as a passive term nowadays? For example, we may say, “I’m so stressed” or “I’m stressed out about all the work I have at the moment”. It sounds like we cannot ‘control’ stress, and we are ‘made’ to be under stress. In addition, stress seems to be a negative thing that many of us wish to get rid of. But is stress really a bad thing?
Bad stress vs good stress
Understanding different kinds of stress will help us see our own circumstances clearly and quickly when we need help.
We all know the feeling when we’re behind on an apparently all-important deadline and then you receive a call asking you to attend an urgent meeting. The sense of emergency might trigger a migraine, irritability, and anxiety etc. These symptoms may appear for a short time and diminish when the stress eases. Our minds extend acute stress. We might keep worrying about the future – the deadline ahead.
We experience some mini-crises regularly, such as tight deadlines that keep cropping up, meeting the end of quarter quota in sales or the financial year end for budget holders. These can cause us to live in a state of tension.
Stress is chronic when the demands are unrelenting, and we don’t know when they will stop. If we don’t allow ourselves to have recovery time, we will begin to accommodate it which can lead to burnout – a state of emotional, physical and mental exhaustion caused by excessive and prolonged stress which leads to loss of interest and motivation.
Not all stress is bad. Imagine if there were no deadlines at work it leads to lack of motivation. Dr. Allen Elkin, stress expert of the Stress Management and Counselling Center says, “Stress is like a violin string. If there’s no tension, there’s no music. But if the string is too tight, it will break.”
Eustress, which also means good stress, helps us to do our best work, motivates us to complete projects on time, motivates us to take action and do something positive to improve the chances of getting a deal, and inspires creativity as we attempt to resolve the conflicting tensions we feel.
Rewire your brain to better handle stress
You may say – “I’m looking after my physical health – getting good sleep, being more physically active, giving myself a break and creating a support network. But the relief I experienced is fleeting!”. There is no doubt that these actions can help us deal with pressure and lessen the impact on our overall health, but they can only treat the symptoms of stress. Most of our stress follows an unpredictable pattern. Imagine if you were in a game of tennis, the ball can come from any direction, at any speed and at any time. You have to return a serve, adopt a stance for uncertainty, float from side to side, graze all options but commit to none. How can we make ourselves ready for the ball of disappointment to strike us from any direction, at any speed and at any time? The most effective way is to hack our brain, rewire it and develop the right mindset to cope better with the nature of stress itself. But how?
Our brains do not serve us well when our thoughts are negative or stressed out. When we are under stress, we are in the fight or flight mode which affects us tapping into our mental resources. When we change the way we perceive stress – and allow only a certain level of concern rather than excessive stress, our brain will move into the innovative and focused space that serves us so well.
Act as if we’re in control
Not to think of ourselves as victims of stressful situations. We need to ensure that we are the ones pulling strings. Being the cause – “what are the things that I can do to voice out my opinion” rather than the effect – “I can’t go on. This is never going to change. It doesn’t matter what I say because no-one will listen…”. Act as if success or failure is within our control. If we succeed, we caused it. If we fail, we caused it. Tell ourselves, we will be able to do this, or we’ve done this before we can do it again.
I can vs I can’t
To deal with different levels of stress, we have to stay confident and believe in ourselves. “Believe you can, believe you can’t, either way you’re right.” – Henry Ford. Our beliefs lead to thoughts and feelings which in turn leading us exhibiting certain behaviours which deliver outcomes. How to empower ourselves to believe that we can deal with stressful situations?
Look at the examples below and see how you can push through the self-limiting belief.
Refer to one of your stressful situations, how are you going to push through your self-limiting beliefs?
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