The Secret Steps to Using Stress to Your Advantage
Why do we have stress? What causes us to feel that stress? Why do we choose the coping responses we choose when stress arises? Are there other, better coping strategies that could turn any kind of stress to our advantage?
The answer to these questions is "YES!"
If you want to learn how to turn stress - any stress - to your advantage, and then teach your coaching clients to do the same, this is the article you need to read.
Step 1: Get to know what stress is and why it exists.
According to Psychology Today, the fundamental role of stress is to serve as a messenger from your fight-or-flight survival instinct to you.
So stress arises in the limbic system of the brain. It then spreads throughout the body with the help of the stress hormone, cortisol, which preps the body for its two most primitive stress response choices: fight or flight.
Before you are hardly aware you are stressed, you are already preparing to respond to that stress in life-preserving ways. That is pretty amazing, actually!
Step 2: Tune into your "stress response instincts."
Stress is a natural responses to many difficult situations, and prompts us to take action and protect ourselves from something our minds deem dangerous. When you begin to feel stressed, your body immediately shifts into either a fight-or-flight response, forcing you to either escape your problems or deal with them upfront.
The flight response can be healthy in some circumstances because it gives the dangerous situation time to neutralize. For instance, if you are dealing with stress over an irritable co-worker, getting away from the situation can give you both the time needed to cool off and not allow serious tension to develop.
On the other hand, there are some situations that have to be addressed immediately and need to be fought through rather than put off. If your boss is pushing you to meet a deadline and you’re feeling stressed, it’s obviously better to go into fight mode and work through the problem rather than trying to escape it.
While everyone has to deal with some tension in the workplace, work-related stress claims are on the rise and more employees are dealing with frustrating circumstances that are almost maddening. If you find yourself facing stress on a daily basis, it might be time for you to start recognizing whether the fight or flight response is better for each situation and begin to take action accordingly.
Step 3: Pretend you are an Olympic athlete....or a cougar's lunch of choice.
There is an old joke about two boys in the woods. They hear a bear growl nearby. The first boy starts lacing up his shoes. The second boy asks why and says, "You can't outrun a bear!" The first boy says, "I know - I just have to outrun you!"
How you choose to respond to stress is very similar. Are you going to let it freeze you in fear or are you going to act?
The good news here is, in nearly every case, you aren't asking yourself to expend a marathon's worth of energy to outrun stress from work. You are only asking for a few moments of your own time in this heightened, fully alert state.
Step 4: Know when to say "when!"
Sometimes stress is solvable by getting creative and trying different things until you find what works. And sometimes stress is not solvable - in that, you have tried everything you can think of, and now you have to know when to say "when."
Figuring out which is which, of course, is the hard part. The more life experience you have, the easier this will be. But if you don't have that experience yet, try trusting your gut instinct and seeking advice from a trusted inner circle. Whatever you do, never stop working toward a resolution.
But ultimately, sometimes ongoing high stress is its own signal that your path forward lies in a different direction. There is nothing wrong with accepting that some things at the time may not currently have a resolution that is workable for all involved.
There is "good" stress, and there is "bad" stress. But underneath labels like these, all stress is still stress.
Its effect on our body and brain is largely the same. These four steps can give you a ready, steady path to stay focused on the bright light at the end of the stress tunnel.
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