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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 January 21, 2020

The Best Way to Create a Vision for the Life You Want

The Best Way to Create a Vision for the Life You Want

Creating a vision for your life might seem like a frivolous, fantastical waste of time, but it’s not: creating a compelling vision of the life you want is actually one of the most effective strategies for achieving the life of your dreams. Perhaps the best way to look at the concept of a life vision is as a compass to help guide you to take the best actions and make the right choices that help propel you toward your best life.

your vision of where or who you want to be is the greatest asset you have

    Why You Need a Vision

    Experts and life success stories support the idea that with a vision in mind, you are more likely to succeed far beyond what you could otherwise achieve without a clear vision. Think of crafting your life vision as mapping a path to your personal and professional dreams. Life satisfaction and personal happiness are within reach. The harsh reality is that if you don’t develop your own vision, you’ll allow other people and circumstances to direct the course of your life.

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    How to Create Your Life Vision

    Don’t expect a clear and well-defined vision overnight—envisioning your life and determining the course you will follow requires time, and reflection. You need to cultivate vision and perspective, and you also need to apply logic and planning for the practical application of your vision. Your best vision blossoms from your dreams, hopes, and aspirations. It will resonate with your values and ideals, and will generate energy and enthusiasm to help strengthen your commitment to explore the possibilities of your life.

    What Do You Want?

    The question sounds deceptively simple, but it’s often the most difficult to answer. Allowing yourself to explore your deepest desires can be very frightening. You may also not think you have the time to consider something as fanciful as what you want out of life, but it’s important to remind yourself that a life of fulfillment does not usually happen by chance, but by design.

    It’s helpful to ask some thought-provoking questions to help you discover the possibilities of what you want out of life. Consider every aspect of your life, personal and professional, tangible and intangible. Contemplate all the important areas, family and friends, career and success, health and quality of life, spiritual connection and personal growth, and don’t forget about fun and enjoyment.

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    Some tips to guide you:

    • Remember to ask why you want certain things
    • Think about what you want, not on what you don’t want.
    • Give yourself permission to dream.
    • Be creative. Consider ideas that you never thought possible.
    • Focus on your wishes, not what others expect of you.

    Some questions to start your exploration:

    • What really matters to you in life? Not what should matter, what does matter.
    • What would you like to have more of in your life?
    • Set aside money for a moment; what do you want in your career?
    • What are your secret passions and dreams?
    • What would bring more joy and happiness into your life?
    • What do you want your relationships to be like?
    • What qualities would you like to develop?
    • What are your values? What issues do you care about?
    • What are your talents? What’s special about you?
    • What would you most like to accomplish?
    • What would legacy would you like to leave behind?

    It may be helpful to write your thoughts down in a journal or creative vision board if you’re the creative type. Add your own questions, and ask others what they want out of life. Relax and make this exercise fun. You may want to set your answers aside for a while and come back to them later to see if any have changed or if you have anything to add.

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    What Would Your Best Life Look Like?

    Describe your ideal life in detail. Allow yourself to dream and imagine, and create a vivid picture. If you can’t visualize a picture, focus on how your best life would feel. If you find it difficult to envision your life 20 or 30 years from now, start with five years—even a few years into the future will give you a place to start. What you see may surprise you. Set aside preconceived notions. This is your chance to dream and fantasize.

    A few prompts to get you started:

    • What will you have accomplished already?
    • How will you feel about yourself?
    • What kind of people are in your life? How do you feel about them?
    • What does your ideal day look like?
    • Where are you? Where do you live? Think specifics, what city, state, or country, type of community, house or an apartment, style and atmosphere.
    • What would you be doing?
    • Are you with another person, a group of people, or are you by yourself?
    • How are you dressed?
    • What’s your state of mind? Happy or sad? Contented or frustrated?
    • What does your physical body look like? How do you feel about that?
    • Does your best life make you smile and make your heart sing? If it doesn’t, dig deeper, dream bigger.

    It’s important to focus on the result, or at least a way-point in your life. Don’t think about the process for getting there yet—that’s the next stepGive yourself permission to revisit this vision every day, even if only for a few minutes. Keep your vision alive and in the front of your mind.

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    Plan Backwards

    It may sound counter-intuitive to plan backwards rather than forwards, but when you’re planning your life from the end result, it’s often more useful to consider the last step and work your way back to the first. This is actually a valuable and practical strategy for making your vision a reality.

    • What’s the last thing that would’ve had to happen to achieve your best life?
    • What’s the most important choice you would’ve had to make?
    • What would you have needed to learn along the way?
    • What important actions would you have had to take?
    • What beliefs would you have needed to change?
    • What habits or behaviors would you have had to cultivate?
    • What type of support would you have had to enlist?
    • How long will it have taken you to realize your best life?
    • What steps or milestones would you have needed to reach along the way?

    Now it’s time to think about your first step, and the next step after that. Ponder the gap between where you are now and where you want to be in the future. It may seem impossible, but it’s quite achievable if you take it step-by-step.

    It’s important to revisit this vision from time to time. Don’t be surprised if your answers to the questions, your technicolor vision, and the resulting plans change. That can actually be a very good thing; as you change in unforeseeable ways, the best life you envision will change as well. For now, it’s important to use the process, create your vision, and take the first step towards making that vision a reality.

    Featured photo credit: Matt Noble via unsplash.com

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