It’s interesting how present stress is in our day to day lives and how we handle it in different ways. It might even be more interesting for you to realise that your perception on stress dictates whether it can hinder your performance or enhance it. There are multiple sources out there to teach us how to cope with stress, the question is, why do we need them so much and why is stress running rampant in our minds?
Stress can have a number of different impacts on our bodies, long term stress can lead to multiple health complications, you have probably heard all of this before, then you think about all the stress you are experiencing, then how much that stress is impacting your health, then you stress about the stress you are feeling. Through thought alone, you can activate the bodies stress response and everything that comes with it.
So, what can you do about it? How well you cope with stress depends very much on how you perceive it. We can either look at these things in our life with a can-do attitude or an, oh god this is just too much, attitude, or perhaps a bit of both. When you approach stress in your life with a glass is half full approach, the blood vessels in your heart dilate, increasing blood flow and oxygen flow to the brain. This increases the efficacy of your thoughts, in turn your responses and your next actions.
When you approach stress with a glass is half empty approach the opposite happens, your cognitive function is impaired and you likely make even more stressful situations for yourself because you have made further poor decisions. You see your perception is determining how you respond and how your body responds, what systems it decides it needs to turn on to get you through the stressful situation. When you are using a half full attitude, your parasympathetic and sympathetic nervous systems become balanced and your body becomes stronger in adversity.
There was a study done where there were 2 groups, one group were shown a video of all of the benefits of stress and how it can enhance your performance, the other were shown all of the negative impacts of stress and how it decreases your performance. They were then given challenges to complete and the former group performed higher in their results because they believed that stress was helping them. Which group to you fall in to?
Here is how this can play out in your life, you are faced a challenge, you can either look at that challenge and decide it is going to be too difficult and nothing good will come out of it and, why oh why, did the world send you this hand of terribly dealt cards? Or, you can look at it, think, there is a lesson to be learnt, that a challenge will only help you grow, that you will be better for this on the other side and without the pain, you wouldn’t nearly as much appreciate the joys in your life. Side note, emotions should not be ignored, if you want to have a kick the dirt moment and curse every situation you find yourself in, by all means, go ahead and get it out of your system. The difference is whether you find yourself stuck there in that bitterness. Whether you tell yourself you can handle the situation in front of you or you tell yourself you cannot, you will be right. This is because our perception dictates a lot of how things turn out for us, so, how much are you going to allow stress to be an obstacle on your path to success?
When we are regularly bombarded with the information of the negative impacts of stress, we can forget that there can also be benefits in the situation. How can you make it, so stress is something that enhances your performance rather then diminishes it? How can you see a situation as something you can handle rather then something you cannot? When you see situations as something you cannot handle, you block your ability to see solutions because you are essentially creating yourself tunnel vision to only see the negatives around you. We all get dealt poor cards from time to time, it is natural to get frustrated with this, but truly, when deciding difference you want to make for yourself please consider how you are viewing the situation.
When you feel yourself beginning to fall into the rabbit hole of stress, who can you reach out to? Even if it is just for a chat? Someone to help you talk it out in a productive way and gain some perspective on the situation? We are wired as humans to connect with one another, we thrive when we engage with our community, so reaching out to someone who’s opinions you value and company you enjoy will only benefit you in reducing those stress levels before they get a chance to run away and create havoc on you.
So next time you feel yourself getting stressed, how are you going to tell yourself how good stress can be for you? What positive benefits can you think of? How can you use your incredibly powerful mind to benefit you in this situation? Can you write a list of the benefits of this challenge and pin it to your fridge to remind you? When you make stress work for you, you will have more clarity of thought, better coping mechanisms when you need them and better access to solutions. What impact are you deciding to have today?