“Adopting the right attitude can convert a negative stress into a positive one.” ~ Hans Selye
Over time, stress has earned a bad name. Yet studies show that some stress is good for us, increasing our immune systems’ capabilities and sharpening our intelligence. Bad stress, though, has the opposite effect, weakening our immune systems and causing us to feel mentally confused and disoriented.
Good stress tends to inspire us to rise to a challenge, so that we discover and experience more of our potential. And don’t most of us want to fully realize our potential? After encounters with good stress, we generally feel stronger and more confident, knowing that we have what it takes to pass the tests and surmount the obstacles that life inevitably throws our way.
Maybe you cut your career teeth on Wall Street, like me. That highly competitive environment oozes stress. Many thrive on that level of intensity (or insanity, depending on how you look at it) until, one day, they crash – physically, mentally and/or emotionally. Exposure to bad stress leaves us feeling depleted and anxious. So noticing how you feel is a good way to determine what kind of stress you are experiencing at any given time. Your body will tell you if you pay attention to it.
So what differentiates good and bad stress? It’s your attitude! If you doubt yourself and always invoke the mantra, “I can’t handle this,” every time life throws something your way, you may be turning good stress into bad stress. When stressful situations come your way, take a deep breath and say, “I can handle this.”
It’s hard to believe such a simple change can make a difference, but it really can.
Expressing confidence in yourself often gives you the power to turn a crisis into a confidence-building challenge. But if you find that you are too depleted to face the challenges that come your way, you owe it to yourself to consciously eliminate as much stress in your life as possible. The operative phrase, in case you just missed it is, you owe it to yourself. Take time to restore and make any necessary changes to your lifestyle. Because you can!
Stress can easily be relieved when you:
Laugh. A good sense of humor can’t cure all ailments, but it can help you feel better, even if you have to force a fake laugh through your grumpiness. When you start to laugh, it lightens your mental load and actually causes positive physical changes in your body. Laughter fires up and then cools down your stress response and increases your heart rate and blood pressure, producing a good, relaxed feeling.
- Get Musical. Listening to or playing music provides a mental distraction, reduces muscle tension and decreases stress hormones. If music isn’t your thing, consider turning your attention to another hobby you enjoy, such as painting, gardening, surfing – anything that requires you to focus on what you’re doing rather than what you think you ought to be doing.
- Connect. When you’re stressed and irritable, your instinct may be to wrap yourself in a cocoon. Instead, reach out to family and friends and make social connections. Connect with your pet! Social contact is good because it can provide support, help you weather life’s trials, and make you feel good by doing good. Take a coffee break with a friend, volunteer for a charitable group, play with your dog, or visit a place of worship.
Different people have different levels of tolerance for stress. Some people actively seek out adrenaline-inducing activities in their spare time. Other people find daily life stressful enough that they spend their downtime resting and restoring themselves. Know yourself and adjust your stress factor accordingly.
You owe it to yourself. 🙂