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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 October 20, 2020

How to Stop Procrastinating: 11 Practical Ways for Procrastinators

How to Stop Procrastinating: 11 Practical Ways for Procrastinators

You have a deadline looming. However, instead of doing your work, you are fiddling with miscellaneous things like checking email, social media, watching videos, surfing blogs and forums. You know you should be working, but you just don’t feel like doing anything.

We are all familiar with the procrastination phenomenon. When we procrastinate, we squander away our free time and put off important tasks we should be doing them till it’s too late. And when it is indeed too late, we panic and wish we got started earlier.

The chronic procrastinators I know have spent years of their life looped in this cycle. Delaying, putting off things, slacking, hiding from work, facing work only when it’s unavoidable, then repeating this loop all over again. It’s a bad habit that eats us away and prevents us from achieving greater results in life.

Don’t let procrastination take over your life. Here, I will share my personal steps on how to stop procrastinating. These 11 steps will definitely apply to you too:

1. Break Your Work into Little Steps

Part of the reason why we procrastinate is because subconsciously, we find the work too overwhelming for us. Break it down into little parts, then focus on one part at the time. If you still procrastinate on the task after breaking it down, then break it down even further. Soon, your task will be so simple that you will be thinking “gee, this is so simple that I might as well just do it now!”.

For example, I’m currently writing a new book (on How to achieve anything in life). Book writing at its full scale is an enormous project and can be overwhelming. However, when I break it down into phases such as –

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  • (1) Research
  • (2) Deciding the topic
  • (3) Creating the outline
  • (4) Drafting the content
  • (5) Writing Chapters #1 to #10,
  • (6) Revision
  • (7) etc.

Suddenly it seems very manageable. What I do then is to focus on the immediate phase and get it done to my best ability, without thinking about the other phases. When it’s done, I move on to the next.

2. Change Your Environment

Different environments have different impact on our productivity. Look at your work desk and your room. Do they make you want to work or do they make you want to snuggle and sleep? If it’s the latter, you should look into changing your workspace.

One thing to note is that an environment that makes us feel inspired before may lose its effect after a period of time. If that’s the case, then it’s time to change things around. Refer to Steps #2 and #3 of 13 Strategies To Jumpstart Your Productivity, which talks about revamping your environment and workspace.

3. Create a Detailed Timeline with Specific Deadlines

Having just 1 deadline for your work is like an invitation to procrastinate. That’s because we get the impression that we have time and keep pushing everything back, until it’s too late.

Break down your project (see tip #1), then create an overall timeline with specific deadlines for each small task. This way, you know you have to finish each task by a certain date. Your timelines must be robust, too – i.e. if you don’t finish this by today, it’s going to jeopardize everything else you have planned after that. This way it creates the urgency to act.

My goals are broken down into monthly, weekly, right down to the daily task lists, and the list is a call to action that I must accomplish this by the specified date, else my goals will be put off.

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Here’re more tips on setting deadlines: 22 Tips for Effective Deadlines

4. Eliminate Your Procrastination Pit-Stops

If you are procrastinating a little too much, maybe that’s because you make it easy to procrastinate.

Identify your browser bookmarks that take up a lot of your time and shift them into a separate folder that is less accessible. Disable the automatic notification option in your email client. Get rid of the distractions around you.

I know some people will out of the way and delete or deactivate their facebook accounts. I think it’s a little drastic and extreme as addressing procrastination is more about being conscious of our actions than counteracting via self-binding methods, but if you feel that’s what’s needed, go for it.

5. Hang out with People Who Inspire You to Take Action

I’m pretty sure if you spend just 10 minutes talking to Steve Jobs or Bill Gates, you’ll be more inspired to act than if you spent the 10 minutes doing nothing. The people we are with influence our behaviors. Of course spending time with Steve Jobs or Bill Gates every day is probably not a feasible method, but the principle applies — The Hidden Power of Every Single Person Around You

Identify the people, friends or colleagues who trigger you – most likely the go-getters and hard workers – and hang out with them more often. Soon you will inculcate their drive and spirit too.

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As a personal development blogger, I “hang out” with inspiring personal development experts by reading their blogs and corresponding with them regularly via email and social media. It’s communication via new media and it works all the same.

6. Get a Buddy

Having a companion makes the whole process much more fun. Ideally, your buddy should be someone who has his/her own set of goals. Both of you will hold each other accountable to your goals and plans. While it’s not necessary for both of you to have the same goals, it’ll be even better if that’s the case, so you can learn from each other.

I have a good friend whom I talk to regularly, and we always ask each other about our goals and progress in achieving those goals. Needless to say, it spurs us to keep taking action.

7. Tell Others About Your Goals

This serves the same function as #6, on a larger scale. Tell all your friends, colleagues, acquaintances and family about your projects. Now whenever you see them, they are bound to ask you about your status on those projects.

For example, sometimes I announce my projects on The Personal Excellence Blog, Twitter and Facebook, and my readers will ask me about them on an ongoing basis. It’s a great way to keep myself accountable to my plans.

8. Seek out Someone Who Has Already Achieved the Outcome

What is it you want to accomplish here, and who are the people who have accomplished this already? Go seek them out and connect with them. Seeing living proof that your goals are very well achievable if you take action is one of the best triggers for action.

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9. Re-Clarify Your Goals

If you have been procrastinating for an extended period of time, it might reflect a misalignment between what you want and what you are currently doing. Often times, we outgrow our goals as we discover more about ourselves, but we don’t change our goals to reflect that.

Get away from your work (a short vacation will be good, else just a weekend break or staycation will do too) and take some time to regroup yourself. What exactly do you want to achieve? What should you do to get there? What are the steps to take? Does your current work align with that? If not, what can you do about it?

10. Stop Over-Complicating Things

Are you waiting for a perfect time to do this? That maybe now is not the best time because of X, Y, Z reasons? Ditch that thought because there’s never a perfect time. If you keep waiting for one, you are never going to accomplish anything.

Perfectionism is one of the biggest reasons for procrastination. Read more about why perfectionist tendencies can be a bane than a boon: Why Being A Perfectionist May Not Be So Perfect.

11. Get a Grip and Just Do It

At the end, it boils down to taking action. You can do all the strategizing, planning and hypothesizing, but if you don’t take action, nothing’s going to happen. Occasionally, I get readers and clients who keep complaining about their situations but they still refuse to take action at the end of the day.

Reality check:

I have never heard anyone procrastinate their way to success before and I doubt it’s going to change in the near future. Whatever it is you are procrastinating on, if you want to get it done, you need to get a grip on yourself and do it.

Bonus: Think Like a Rhino

More Tips for Procrastinators to Start Taking Action

Featured photo credit: Malvestida Magazine via unsplash.com

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