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6 Ways to Use Stress to Your Advantage

6 Ways to Use Stress to Your Advantage

“The time to relax is when you don’t have time for it.” — Sydney J. Harris

At one time or another, we all face stress. While stress comes in different forms, it is a part of our lives. Many times when we think of stress, we tend to give it a negative connotation. But, wouldn’t it be helpful if we stopped fighting stress so much and actually used it to thrive in life? You know, give it a positive spin.

Well, here are 6 ways to use stress to your advantage:

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1. Choose to have a positive attitude.

Let go of negative emotions and past mistakes. Allowing these things into your life on a regular basis will zap you of your energy and cause you to waste many mental hours holding on to them. Clean up messes, get help if you need it, and anchor yourself to some good cause.

Daniela Kaufer, associate professor at UC Berkeley did some research on the differences between good stress and bad stress. When it comes to ensuring, stress is beneficial rather than harmful, she said, “If you tend to have a positive attitude—a self-confident sense that you can get through a rough period—you’re more likely to have a healthy response than if you perceive stress as catastrophic.”

2. Embrace a new perspective.

Sometimes, we need to see our lives and our relationships differently. Stress is the perfect path to take to do that. Get a change of scenery, improve yourself, open your mind up to new opportunities. Start seeing things differently, and that burdened feeling you’ve got may just go away.

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3. Learn to let go.

You were never meant to be in control of the world. The world will roll right on even if you take a break and even if you go on vacation and even if you drop off the face of the earth. Stress will make you take that break you really need if you let it. Release your grip on the steering wheel of life and free yourself to be out of control sometimes.

On the flip side, stress can make your life interesting at times. Dr. John Whyte, vice president of Discovery Channel’s Health and Medical Education, stated, “Challenges like asking someone out on a first date, facing and conquering a known fear, interacting with people you’ve never met, even learning something completely new — These may not immediately come to mind when you think of stressors — and maybe that’s because of the positive outcomes that come from them — but they’re the types that can help you achieve fulfillment, health, and happiness.”

4. Focus on certain aspects.

If you’re dealing with a big problem that is impossible to solve all at once, then don’t try to solve it all at once. Focus on one aspect at a time and deal with it little by little. Stress drains your energy and enthusiasm for work and creativity. Even if you’re not dealing with a problem, but a really big project. Take time to break it up and focus all in on one thing at a time.

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5. Get good sleep.

So many things to do and so little time to do it in, so we sleep less and hustle more. That’s what we tend to do, but we shouldn’t. We’re not superhuman and we need a good night (or day, in some cases) of pure old sleep. Proper rest will give your mind and body time to clear out the negative vibes and prepare you to face the world brilliantly.

A 2013 survey of stress in the lives of Americans shows that most adults reported they were sleeping 6.7 hours each night, less than the 7 to 9 hours recommended. Additionally, many see their stress level increase when the quality and length of sleep decreases.

6. Share. Talk. Open up.

Stress can make us feel burnt out. When we’re burnt out, we really need to talk to someone, not curl up in a hole and cry. Share with someone close to you the things you’re dealing with. Opening up to a partner or close friend will help you clarify your problem, see things from a different point of view, and realize opportunities that may have been there all along, but you just didn’t see them.

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UCLA psychology researchers found that men and women respond differently to stress. While men would tend to retire to their offices at work, women would tend to come together for lunch or just to talk. Surprisingly, they found through animal and human research, that while estrogen in women increases oxytocin, testosterone in men impedes it, thus allowing stress to increase compassion, sensitivity, and understanding in females.

Some stress is bad. But mostly, stress is good for us if we choose to make it our buddy and not our archenemy. When we’re not just coping with our stress, but actively working through our stress, we set ourselves up to thrive. And when we thrive, well, everyone is happy.

“The greatest weapon against stress is our ability to choose one thought over another.”
— William James

Featured photo credit: aaayyymm eeelectriik / Flickr via flickr.com

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Daniella Whyte

Psychology Researcher

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Last Updated on December 2, 2018

How to Flow Your Way to a More Productive Life

How to Flow Your Way to a More Productive Life

Ebb and flow. Contraction and expansion. Highs and lows. It’s all about the cycles of life.

The entire course of our life follows this up and down pattern of more and then less. Our days flow this way, each following a pattern of more energy, then less energy, more creativity and periods of greater focus bookended by moments of low energy when we cringe at the thought of one more meeting, one more call, one more sentence.

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The key is in understanding how to use the cycles of ebb and flow to our advantage. The ability to harness these fluctuations, understand how they affect our productivity and mood and then apply that knowledge as a tool to improve our lives is a valuable strategy that few individuals or corporations have mastered.

Here are a few simple steps to start using this strategy today:

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Review Your Past Flow

Take just a few minutes to look back at how your days and weeks have been unfolding. What time of the day are you the most focused? Do you prefer to be more social at certain times of the day? Do you have difficulty concentrating after lunch or are you energized? Are there days when you can’t seem to sit still at your desk and others when you could work on the same project for hours?

Do you see a pattern starting to emerge? Eventually you will discover a sort of map or schedule that charts your individual productivity levels during a given day or week.  That’s the first step. You’ll use this information to plan your days going forward.

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Schedule According to Your Flow Pattern

Look at the types of things you do each day…each week. What can you move around so that it’s a better fit for you? Can you suggest to your team that you schedule meetings for late morning if you can’t stand to be social first thing? Can you schedule detailed project work or highly creative tasks, like writing or designing when you are best able to focus? How about making sales calls or client meetings on days when you are the most social and leaving billing or reports until another time when you are able to close your door and do repetitive tasks.

Keep in mind that everyone is different and some things are out of our control. Do what you can. You might be surprised at just how flexible clients and managers can be when they understand that improving your productivity will result in better outcomes for them.

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Account for Big Picture Fluctuations

Look at the bigger picture. Consider what happens during different months or times during the year. Think about what is going on in the other parts of your life. When is the best time for you to take on a new project, role or responsibility? Take into account other commitments that zap your energy. Do you have a sick parent, a spouse who travels all the time or young children who demand all of your available time and energy?

We all know people who ignore all of this advice and yet seem to prosper and achieve wonderful success anyway, but they are usually the exception, not the rule. For most of us, this habitual tendency to force our bodies and our brains into patterns of working that undermine our productivity result in achieving less than desired results and adding more stress to our already overburdened lives.

Why not follow the ebb and flow of your life instead of fighting against it?

    Featured photo credit: Nathan Dumlao via unsplash.com

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