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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 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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