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5 Surprising Ways Stress Can Improve Your Life

5 Surprising Ways Stress Can Improve Your Life

Stress.

Just seeing that word evokes a visceral response. It’s the tossing and turning the night before a big meeting. It’s the hectic morning rush to get out the door on time. It’s the pounding headache after a long day at work.

Peruse any major magazine these days, and you’re bound to find some article about the harmful effects of stress. Everyone’s talking about how to lower, manage, and overcome stress. It’s the villain of our time.

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But stress isn’t the enemy. Once-upon-a-time, stress was the only thing keeping us alive from predators. And, if it can screw up our lives as badly as it does, imagine what would happen if we knew how to use it in a good way. So let’s figure out how to put stress to work for us, not against us.

Here are 5 surprising ways that stress can improve your life:

1. Stress gives you the energy to handle a crisis.

Remember the last time you stayed up all night to meet a deadline? Or that time you made a quick decision in an emergency situation? Stress response tightened your muscles, sharpened your vision, laser-pointed your concentration, and spiked your blood sugar, all so you’d have the strength, energy, and focus to get the job done. Stress is just your body’s physiological response to perceived danger. It’s your natural safety net to get you out of a tight spot.

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2. You’ve got no other option than to see what you’re made of.

In the midst of stress, you don’t have time to be insecure about what people will think or how you look to them. Stress forces you to dig deep and access strengths and skills that you never knew existed. It pushes you out of your comfort zone, increases your self-confidence, and teaches you how to grow. Stress is the driving motivation to push you past your limits and reach your potential.

3. It shines a light on problem areas in your life.

Stress is a great marker for areas of your life that aren’t working. If the stress red flag is always up in your job or relationship or busy schedule, then it’s time to take a closer look at the offender. Maybe you’re taking on too much, setting unrealistic expectations, or living with limiting beliefs. Want to be happier? Look at the areas of your life that are most stressful, and change those to work for you.

4. You’ve got the urge to move.

Ever noticed what people do when they’re stressed? They pace. We’ve got a built-in instinct to start moving. That fight-or-flight mentality sends us the energy, strength, and jitters to hit the treadmill. It’s no coincidence that people like to exercise when they’re stressed. So next time you’re feeling the office stress, try a walking-meeting. You’ll use up that stress response and get your cardio done for the day.

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5. You can learn to read your body’s emotion map.

It’s no secret that great leaders have high emotional intelligence. But they aren’t just pulling this out of thin air. You can use the patterns of your stress response to understand your emotions. For example, a tightened stomach often signifies loss of control or fear of power struggles. Tense shoulders can be a sign of overburden or taking on too much. And a stiff neck can mean not being nimble or flexible enough. Stress is just a physiological response to a thought or emotion. So, as you learn to read your own stress map, you can understand the underlying emotion.

Let’s face it: stress isn’t going away any time soon. So you might as well figure out how to use it to your advantage. Stress isn’t the problem; it’s just a red flag that something isn’t working. So, instead of vilifying it, why not make friends and use it to design the life you want?

That already sounds less stressful, doesn’t it?

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Featured photo credit: © Nikolais | Dreamstime Stock Photos via stockfreeimages.com

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Last Updated on November 5, 2019

How to Cultivate Continuous Learning to Stay Competitive

How to Cultivate Continuous Learning to Stay Competitive

Assuming the public school system didn’t crush your soul, learning is a great activity. It expands your viewpoint. It gives you new knowledge you can use to improve your life. It is important for your personal growth. Even if you discount the worldly benefits, the act of learning can be a source of enjoyment.

“I have never let my schooling interfere with my education.” — Mark Twain

But in a busy world, it can often be hard to fit in time to learn anything that isn’t essential. The only things learned are those that need to be. Everything beyond that is considered frivolous. Even those who do appreciate the practice of lifelong learning, can find it difficult to make the effort.

Here are some tips for installing the habit of continuous learning:

1. Always Have a Book

It doesn’t matter if it takes you a year or a week to read a book. Always strive to have a book that you are reading through, and take it with you so you can read it when you have time.

Just by shaving off a few minutes in-between activities in my day I can read about a book per week. That’s at least fifty each year.

2. Keep a “To-Learn” List

We all have to-do lists. These are the tasks we need to accomplish. Try to also have a “to-learn” list. On it you can write ideas for new areas of study.

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Maybe you would like to take up a new language, learn a skill or read the collective works of Shakespeare. Whatever motivates you, write it down.

3. Get More Intellectual Friends

Start spending more time with people who think. Not just people who are smart, but people who actually invest much of their time in learning new skills. Their habits will rub off on you.

Even better, they will probably share some of their knowledge with you.

4. Guided Thinking

Albert Einstein once said,

“Any man who reads too much and uses his own brain too little falls into lazy habits of thinking.”

Simply studying the wisdom of others isn’t enough, you have to think through ideas yourself. Spend time journaling, meditating or contemplating over ideas you have learned.

5. Put it Into Practice

Skill based learning is useless if it isn’t applied. Reading a book on C++ isn’t the same thing as writing a program. Studying painting isn’t the same as picking up a brush.

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If your knowledge can be applied, put it into practice.

In this information age, we’re all exposed to a lot of information, it’s important to re-learn how to learn so as to put the knowledge into practice.

6. Teach Others

You learn what you teach. If you have an outlet of communicating ideas to others, you are more likely to solidify that learning.

Start a blog, mentor someone or even discuss ideas with a friend.

7. Clean Your Input

Some forms of learning are easy to digest, but often lack substance.

I make a point of regularly cleaning out my feed reader for blogs I subscribe to. Great blogs can be a powerful source of new ideas. But every few months, I realize I’m collecting posts from blogs that I am simply skimming.

Every few months, purify your input to save time and focus on what counts.

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8. Learn in Groups

Lifelong learning doesn’t mean condemning yourself to a stack of dusty textbooks. Join organizations that teach skills.

Workshops and group learning events can make educating yourself a fun, social experience.

9. Unlearn Assumptions

You can’t add water to a full cup. I always try to maintain a distance away from any idea. Too many convictions simply mean too few paths for new ideas.

Actively seek out information that contradicts your worldview.

Our minds can’t be trusted, but this is what we can do about it to be wiser.

10. Find Jobs that Encourage Learning

Pick a career that encourages continual learning. If you are in a job that doesn’t have much intellectual freedom, consider switching to one that does.

Don’t spend forty hours of your week in a job that doesn’t challenge you.

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11. Start a Project

Set out to do something you don’t know how. Forced learning in this way can be fun and challenging.

If you don’t know anything about computers, try building one. If you consider yourself a horrible artist, try a painting.

12. Follow Your Intuition

Lifelong learning is like wandering through the wilderness. You can’t be sure what to expect and there isn’t always an end goal in mind.

Letting your intuition guide you can make self-education more enjoyable. Most of our lives have been broken down to completely logical decisions, that making choices on a whim has been stamped out.

13. The Morning Fifteen

Productive people always wake up early. Use the first fifteen minutes of your morning as a period for education.

If you find yourself too groggy, you might want to wait a short time. Just don’t put it off later in the day where urgent activities will push it out of the way.

14. Reap the Rewards

Learn information you can use. Understanding the basics of programming allows me to handle projects that other people would require outside help. Meeting a situation that makes use of your educational efforts can be a source of pride.

15. Make Learning a Priority

Few external forces are going to persuade you to learn. The desire has to come from within. Once you decide you want to make lifelong learning a habit, it is up to you to make it a priority in your life.

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Featured photo credit: Paul Schafer via unsplash.com

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