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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 January 14, 2019

7 Ways To Make Exercise Fun For Everyone

7 Ways To Make Exercise Fun For Everyone

From Atkins to Paleo to eating gluten-free despite not being one of the rare few people afflicted with celiac disease, fad diets are everywhere. It drives me crazy because I believe these diets do more harm than good. Your body is made up of a variety of vitamins, nutrients, and minerals, and losing weight healthily isn’t possible when you fill your body with unnecessary synthetic plastics, sugars, and powders. There’s no easy button in life.

What you need to do is exercise, which isn’t very appealing to many people. Workouts take work, so there’s already a stigma involved in going to the gym. Starting a healthy workout regimen becomes easier when you make it fun. If you want to live long and prosper, get off the couch and try these methods to turn your workout into a playout.

1. Take the scenic route.

Walking is an easy way to transition to a healthy lifestyle, and it’s free. Not only do you burn calories (check out this calculator for how many calories you burn based on your weight), but you see the world in a different way. Hiking in nature is great if you have access to it, but don’t let living in an urban area deter you from walking.

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Whenever I’m creatively stuck I get my head straight by walking a couple of miles. It’s also how I discover new paths, meet new people, and stumble upon hole-in-the-wall spots I never would have found otherwise. You could drive past the same place every day and never appreciate the beauty, nor even notice it’s there.

2. Distract yourself.

No matter what exercise routine you choose, use the time to meditate. You may wonder how marathon runners are able to put so many miles on their bodies. It’s because the pain from running that you avoid is something they’ve learned to harness to enter a transcendental state. If you’re aware of the benefits of meditation and exercise but don’t have time to do both, you can combine them, killing two birds with one healthy stone.

3. Listen to music or podcasts.

There are few experiences in life more pleasurable than turning up the music and drowning out the world around you. With so many podcasts and music apps available on your smartphone, you can easily find entertainment options perfectly suited to your personal tastes. Never worry what people may think of you when working out;instead, crank up the volume and get lost in your own world. You’ll be in shape before you know it.

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4. Bring a friend.

Some people can’t go anywhere alone. While I highly recommend dining out and seeing a movie in a theater alone, having company while exercising is very helpful. It allows you to pace yourself with someone else, and gives you a coach to motivate and push harder than you may have on your own.

Many exercises are safer when done with a friend, and some sports can only be played with another person. Involving others in your goals can mean the difference between success and failure. Just remember to continue exercising if the other person flakes, or they’ll be in control of your health.

5. Accessorize.

There are accessories that can make exercise easier, and sometimes buying a new toy can add some much-needed fun to your routine. With apps like RunKeeper and Nike+, your smartphone is capable of tracking your vitals and progress. Wrist weights can add a new dimension to your workout, and, if you exercise at night, a headlamp can help you see what’s in front of you so you don’t trip.

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For urban runners and power-walkers, one of the biggest obstacles is other people. It’s difficult to get in your meditative zone and enjoy your music when you constantly have to dodge people. To resolve this vexing issue, Runbell, a startup in Tokyo, has developed the runner’s version of the bicycle bell. With this lightweight brass bell warning people you’re approaching from behind, you’re free to maintain your transcendental state while continuing your workout. Head to their Kickstarter campaign to pledge your support.

6. Compete.

A little healthy competition can motivate you to push yourself further in your workout regimen. There are apps like Zombies, Run! which turns your run into a video game, and MyFitnessPal which allows you to connect with others in the exercise community. Whether you’re directly competing with a friend, an online community, or against your previous self, setting goals is the key to reaching them. Running with no destination can feel like an impossible task, and it’s easy to get distracted.

7. Relax.

The best part about exercising is how much you enjoy the downtime. If you think laying on your couch all day is enjoyable, it has nothing on that hour you spend as a couch potato after a rigorous workout. Jay-Z said it best, “in order to experience joy, you need pain.” The harder you push yourself while exercising, the better you’ll feel when you’re relaxing.

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With that said, don’t relax too much, or it loses the effect. It’s okay to indulge every so often. Treat yourself to some junk food you’re craving, imbibe a drink here and there, and spend a day vegging out on your couch. Staying healthy doesn’t have to be torture. Just turn down when you can and dedicate some time to better the health of your body. You only get one.

Featured photo credit: tpsdave via pixabay.com

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