Stress has a bad reputation it does not deserve. As I discussed in the posts, I React Therefore I Am and The Misunderstood Messenger, its function is primary to our well being and it has been a competitive advantage of the human race since the beginning.
Here are 12 ways to turn stress into an ally, rather than fear it as a disease.
- Become better informed about the natural cycle of the stress reaction: from the alarm phase to the peak of arousal, and finally the resolution phase.
- Consider the convincing evidence supporting the notion that we often experience benefits following stress and trauma. There are many names for these benefits, such as silver lining, flourishing, positive by-products, positive changes, positive meaning, posttraumatic growth, quantum change, self-renewal, stress-related growth, thriving, and transformational coping.
- Notice that in many cases relationships are enhanced
by stressful events, such as when we value friends and family more and feel more compassion and altruism toward others.
- Reflect on the fact that stressful situations sharpen our view of ourselves in some way, such as when we learn to rely on our resources, our wisdom, and our strengths, and also a healthier
acceptance of our inevitable human limitations.
- Be aware that many successful individuals report that stress and adversity helped them change their approach to life, such as by
- finding a fresh appreciation for each new day and focusing on what really matters in life, including changing their spiritual beliefs.
- Know that at least 30% and as many as 70% of people who live through stressful circumstances and traumatic events indicate that they were ultimately beneficial, although they do not feel this way immediately but only after some time has passed.
- Take advantage of opportunities to develop a positive stress-appraisal, better ways of coping, a more optimistic, extraverted, and stable outlook on life.
- Give some consideration to the benefits of cultivating the spirit, of becoming more accepting, being more emotionally expressive, and more emotionally focused.
- Take advantage of your existing social support network, which provides one of the best sources of comfort and relief; if a support system is not available or is compromised, make it a priority to acquire it or rebuild it, before the next crisis.
- Accept the positive belief that the normal outcome of traumatic stress is growth, and that “bad stress” is nothing more than a function of misusing our natural stress response.
- Remember that although the biological processes that take place during the stress response are universal, there are specific changes that one can make as an individual.
- Learn to use the message of stress (“something or someone requires my urgent attention”) to motivate action toward addressing the cause of the message, i.e. the stressor itself.