A Helpful Mindset: the Art of Befriending Stress

As busy people, we all know that chronic stress will wreak havoc on our health, happiness, and business when left unchecked.

But there’s more to the “bad stress story” than that. Research shows us that it’s not just the stressful situations that we experience but also perceived stress that is just as damaging.

Perception also plays a big role in how resilient we are too. For example, in one study, when instructed to rethink stress as functional, people could recall more available resources, and it also improved their cardiovascular health markers.

It seems that the goal is not to eliminate all stress (which, by the way, is impossible), but to befriend it by reshaping how we interpret stressors and stressful situations.

What Is Mindset, and Why Does It Matter?

A mindset is a belief that orients how we handle situations -how we sort out what is going on and what we should do. Our mindsets help us to spot opportunities, but they can also trap us in self-defeating cycles.

Therefore, our mindset around stress will determine whether we believe that the stressful situation will create enhancing or debilitating consequences. And this then informs how we respond.

How to Create a “Stress Helps” or Enhancing Mindset

Here are three doable steps: 

1)    Acknowledge Your Stress Without Judgement 

  • What is stressing you right now, use simple words to describe it?
  • What are your emotional responses? (e.g. frustration, sadness)
  • What are your behavioural responses? (e.g. arguing, eating an entire block of chocolate in one sitting)

2)    Welcome Your Stress

  • What is the care beneath the complaint?
  • Since you only stress because you care about something, what is it that you care about?

Becoming aware that because you care, means it’s causing you stress, helps to reframe your stress as a sign, reminding you of what matters most. Understanding that stress is inherently connected to your values and goals can create a way for developing that enhancing, “stress-helps” mindset.

3)    Utilise Your Stress 

The final step is to see stress as an asset to achieving your goals by utilising your resourcefulness in rising to meet the challenge before you. 

Let’s consider the following example. A combination of steps one and two has led to a non-judgemental and welcoming attitude towards stress and its connection to someone’s values and goals:

“I acknowledge that I am stressed because I need enough sales to cover my overheads, with enough left to provide for my children’s education.”

Given that we can choose to rethink stress as functional –What is the opportunity here?

In this scenario, it is easy to see how focused attention on increasing sales, could be a critical next step. We may even decide that it’s prudent to invest in outside help from an expert in sales to speed up not only our process but profits.

In conclusion, how do you interpret the stressors in your life? Are they there to help you learn something, grow in a new direction, wake you up to life, or do they exist to take a toll on your health, wellbeing and business? The choice is up to you.

ref: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4792825/


Sharon Tomkins

Sharon is a New Zealand qualified Health Coach and Personal Trainer, as well as an ICF Certified Coach and Accredited Coaching Supervisor. Sharon was awarded the 'Health & Wellness Coach of the Year' 2022, by The Health Coaches Australia & New Zealand Association.
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