We all feel stress from time to time. With managing work, financial pressures, relationships, and life’s other occurrences, stress is almost inevitable.
And although we all experience stress, there is often a negative view associated with it – it can be overwhelming, with feelings of anxiety and unease. This negative view has also been reinforced with the notion that stress is bad for us, with it being the common culprit for many ailments.
The good news is that you have more control over your stress levels than you think. Although stress is universal, it’s how we perceive and react to stress that really makes a difference.
But how do we use stress to our advantage?
Is there a way to use feelings of overwhelm to our benefit?
Here are 5 ways to reframe stress so that it works for you:
1) VIEW STRESS POSITIVELY
In an interview with Dr. McGonical, the author of The Upside of Stress: Why Stress Is Good For You, and How to Get Good at It, she indicates that we can use stress to become more resilient. This resiliency can occur when we accept and reframe the current stressor. If you decide to look at stress positively, you can use stress as a tool to better yourself.
Stress can be a great resource to improve productivity and performance, make positive changes, and enhance focus. Sometimes stress can be a signal that you may be taking too much on or that you need to make adjustments in a specific area. It can also be a great motivator for change and efficiency.
2) NOTICE YOUR THOUGHTS
Often our thoughts occur in patterns – we continuously think the same thoughts over and over again. We create stories for ourselves, and over time we start to believe our repetitive worries and concerns. This negative thinking exacerbates our stress levels, enhancing our overwhelm.
In order to reframe our stress, we need to first recognize our negative thoughts. Be your own detective and constantly observe your stressful thoughts. Reflect on what is causing you stress, and the thoughts behind it. Once you are aware of your repetitive thoughts, it’s easier to change them rather than get caught up in the negative thought cycle.
3) FLIP THE SWITCH
When you notice stressful negative thoughts pop up, flip the switch. Notice which thoughts play on repeat, and ask yourself why they do. Are those worry-filled thoughts even true? Maybe you are stressing over an upcoming project. Instead of worrying about getting it done (or doing well on it), flip the switch and focus on the opposite. Tell yourself that you will complete the project (and do amazing on it). Even if you don’t completely believe it, flipping the switch allows you to reframe your thoughts so that they don’t pull you deeper into overwhelm.
4) LOOK ON THE BRIGHT SIDE
What is your stress trying to tell you? How can you use your stress to your advantage? Even if you can’t completely change your stressor, you can reduce the overwhelm by finding the benefits of your current situation. Perhaps you are finding yourself to be constantly stressed from your job. Maybe that is the motivation you need to finally get a new job? Or maybe the stress is making you realize that you need to slow down and spend time with loved ones. Whatever the situation may be, it isn’t all bleak so it’s important not to view it as such.
5) USE STRESS AS A WAY TO CONNECT
When we feel stressed, our body releases a hormone called oxytocin. Oxytocin acts on the ‘social center’ of your brain, essentially encouraging you to connect with others. This social connection can be beneficial in managing stress, as social interaction reduces cortisol levels (the hormone that causes stress). Therefore, we are physiologically wired to seek emotional support, as it is a means to minimize the intensity of stress.
With the encouragement of oxytocin, we can get the needed support from others, while also strengthening our relationships. Everyone can relate to stress, so by sharing our experience with others, we are able to tighten our social bonds while gaining valuable insight and guidance.