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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 March 13, 2019

How to Get out of a Rut: 12 Useful Ways to Get Unstuck

How to Get out of a Rut: 12 Useful Ways to Get Unstuck

Have you gotten into a rut before? Or are you in a rut right now?

You know you’re in a rut when you run out of ideas and inspiration. I personally see a rut as a productivity vacuum. It might very well be a reason why you aren’t getting results. Even as you spend more time on your work, you can’t seem to get anything constructive done. While I’m normally productive, I get into occasional ruts (especially when I’ve been working back-to-back without rest). During those times, I can spend an entire day in front of the computer and get nothing done. It can be quite frustrating.

Over time, I have tried and found several methods that are helpful to pull me out of a rut. If you experience ruts too, whether as a working professional, a writer, a blogger, a student or other work, you will find these useful. Here are 12 of my personal tips to get out of ruts:

1. Work on the small tasks.

When you are in a rut, tackle it by starting small. Clear away your smaller tasks which have been piling up. Reply to your emails, organize your documents, declutter your work space, and reply to private messages.

Whenever I finish doing that, I generate a positive momentum which I bring forward to my work.

2. Take a break from your work desk.

Get yourself away from your desk and go take a walk. Go to the washroom, walk around the office, go out and get a snack.

Your mind is too bogged down and needs some airing. Sometimes I get new ideas right after I walk away from my computer.

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3. Upgrade yourself

Take the down time to upgrade yourself. Go to a seminar. Read up on new materials (#7). Pick up a new language. Or any of the 42 ways here to improve yourself.

The modern computer uses different typefaces because Steve Jobs dropped in on a calligraphy class back in college. How’s that for inspiration?

4. Talk to a friend.

Talk to someone and get your mind off work for a while.

Talk about anything, from casual chatting to a deep conversation about something you really care about. You will be surprised at how the short encounter can be rejuvenating in its own way.

5. Forget about trying to be perfect.

If you are in a rut, the last thing you want to do is step on your own toes with perfectionist tendencies.

Just start small. Do what you can, at your own pace. Let yourself make mistakes.

Soon, a little trickle of inspiration will come. And then it’ll build up with more trickles. Before you know it, you have a whole stream of ideas.

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6. Paint a vision to work towards.

If you are continuously getting in a rut with your work, maybe there’s no vision inspiring you to move forward.

Think about why you are doing this, and what you are doing it for. What is the end vision in mind?

Make it as vivid as possible. Make sure it’s a vision that inspires you and use that to trigger you to action.

7. Read a book (or blog).

The things we read are like food to our brain. If you are out of ideas, it’s time to feed your brain with great materials.

Here’s a list of 40 books you can start off with. Stock your browser with only the feeds of high quality blogs, such as Lifehack.org, DumbLittleMan, Seth Godin’s Blog, Tim Ferris’ Blog, Zen Habits or The Personal Excellence Blog.

Check out the best selling books; those are generally packed with great wisdom.

8. Have a quick nap.

If you are at home, take a quick nap for about 20-30 minutes. This clears up your mind and gives you a quick boost. Nothing quite like starting off on a fresh start after catching up on sleep.

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9. Remember why you are doing this.

Sometimes we lose sight of why we do what we do, and after a while we become jaded. A quick refresher on why you even started on this project will help.

What were you thinking when you thought of doing this? Retrace your thoughts back to that moment. Recall why you are doing this. Then reconnect with your muse.

10. Find some competition.

Nothing quite like healthy competition to spur us forward. If you are out of ideas, then check up on what people are doing in your space.

Colleagues at work, competitors in the industry, competitors’ products and websites, networking conventions.. you get the drill.

11. Go exercise.

Since you are not making headway at work, might as well spend the time shaping yourself up.

Sometimes we work so much that we neglect our health and fitness. Go jog, swim, cycle, whichever exercise you prefer.

As you improve your physical health, your mental health will improve, too. The different facets of ourselves are all interlinked.

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Here’re 15 Tips to Restart the Exercise Habit (and How to Keep It).

12. Take a good break.

Ruts are usually signs that you have been working too long and too hard. It’s time to get a break.

Beyond the quick tips above, arrange for a 1-day or 2-days of break from your work. Don’t check your (work) emails or do anything work-related. Relax and do your favorite activities. You will return to your work recharged and ready to start.

Contrary to popular belief, the world will not end from taking a break from your work. In fact, you will be much more ready to make an impact after proper rest. My best ideas and inspiration always hit me whenever I’m away from my work.

Take a look at this to learn the importance of rest: The Importance of Scheduling Downtime

More Resources About Getting out of a Rut

Featured photo credit: Joshua Earle via unsplash.com

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