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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 September 20, 2018

How to Stay Calm and Cool When You Are Extremely Stressful

How to Stay Calm and Cool When You Are Extremely Stressful

Being in a hurry all the time drains your energy. Your work and routine life make you feel overwhelmed. Getting caught up in things beyond your control stresses you out…

If you’d like to stay calm and cool in stressful situations, put the following 8 steps into practice:

1. Breathe

The next time you’re faced with a stressful situation that makes you want to hurry, stop what you’re doing for one minute and perform the following steps:

  • Take five deep breaths in and out (your belly should come forward with each inhale).
  • Imagine all that stress leaving your body with each exhale.
  • Smile. Fake it if you have to. It’s pretty hard to stay grumpy with a goofy grin on your face.

Feel free to repeat the above steps every few hours at work or home if you need to.

2. Loosen up

After your breathing session, perform a quick body scan to identify any areas that are tight or tense. Clenched jaw? Rounded shoulders? Anything else that isn’t at ease?

Gently touch or massage any of your body parts that are under tension to encourage total relaxation. It might help to imagine you’re in a place that calms you: a beach, hot tub, or nature trail, for example.

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3. Chew slowly

Slow down at the dinner table if you want to learn to be patient and lose weight. Shoveling your food down as fast as you can is a surefire way to eat more than you need to (and find yourself with a bellyache).

Be a mindful eater who pays attention to the taste, texture, and aroma of every dish. Chew slowly while you try to guess all of the ingredients that were used to prepare your dish.

Chewing slowly will also reduce those dreadful late-night cravings that sneak up on you after work.

4. Let go

Cliche as it sounds, it’s very effective.

The thing that seems like the end of the world right now?

It’s not. Promise.

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Stressing and worrying about the situation you’re in won’t do any good because you’re already in it, so just let it go.

Letting go isn’t easy, so here’s a guide to help you:

21 Things To Do When You Find It Hard To Let Go

5. Enjoy the journey

Focusing on the end result can quickly become exhausting. Chasing a bold, audacious goal that’s going to require a lot of time and patience? Split it into several mini-goals so you’ll have several causes for celebration.

Stop focusing on the negative thoughts. Giving yourself consistent positive feedback will help you grow patience, stay encouraged, and find more joy in the process of achieving your goals.

6. Look at the big picture

The next time you find your stress level skyrocketing, take a deep breath, and ask yourself:

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Will this matter to me…

  • Next week?
  • Next month?
  • Next year?
  • In 10 years?

Hint: No, it won’t.

I bet most of the stuff that stresses you wouldn’t matter the next week, maybe not even the next day.

Stop agonizing over things you can’t control because you’re only hurting yourself.

7. Stop demanding perfection of yourself

You’re not perfect and that’s okay. Show me a person who claims to be perfect and I’ll show you a dirty liar.

Demanding perfection of yourself (or anybody else) will only stress you out because it just isn’t possible.

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8. Practice patience every day

Below are a few easy ways you can practice patience every day, increasing your ability to remain calm and cool in times of stress:

  • The next time you go to the grocery store, get in the longest line.
  • Instead of going through the drive-thru at your bank, go inside.
  • Take a long walk through a secluded park or trail.

Final thoughts

Staying calm in stressful situations is possible, all you need is some daily practice.

Taking deep breaths and eat mindfully are some simple ways to train your brain to be more patient. But changing the way you think of a situation and staying positive are most important in keeping cool whenever you feel overwhelmed and stressful.

Featured photo credit: Brooke Cagle via unsplash.com

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