“Difficulties strengthen the mind, as labor does the body.” – Seneca
We often hear over and over again about how damaging stress can be to our health.
From paying the bills to sitting in traffic to working jobs we don’t like and handling what can seem like endless responsibilities, the list of things that can stress us out in the modern world is endless.
What most people don’t realize is that stress is natural. Some form of stress (whether physical or emotional) is actually happening to us every second of the day—from the moment we’re born until the moment we die. Breathing, walking, talking, eating; these are all forms of stress on the body.
But researchers are starting to realize how beneficial stress can actually be to our wellbeing.
In her book, The Upside of Stress, Kelly McGonigal looks at all the research which suggests how important stress is in our lives.
The main point of McGonagal’s book is that the impact stress has on our bodies and minds is mediated by our perception of stress.
This means if we view stress as a positive thing, we can actually improve from it.
One study found those who experienced high stress levels but viewed stress as beneficial had the highest life expectancy—not just higher than those who viewed stress as damaging, but higher than those who reported low stress!
Here are 4 tactics you can use to turn stress on its head and transform it into true strength.
Reframe the stress
Do you remember the old cliché, always look at the bright side of life?
This is actually very good advice that is heavily backed by science. In a study at Yale University, people who viewed old age in a positive light went on to live an average of 7.6 years longer—that’s almost as much time as you lose from a lifetime of smoking.
Another study at Harvard found that repeating positive mantras turned feeling into productive energy. Public speakers reported much greater performances when they reframed their stressful symptoms as “I am excited.”
Remember though, this doesn’t mean being blind to the negative impacts that stress could have. It’s about seeing both sides of the coin and consciously choosing the positive one.
Learn to love the stress
In order to turn stress into productive energy you need to learn to appreciate it for what it really is—an opportunity.
Most people are so fixed on avoiding stress that when they experience it in any shape or form it can overwhelm them.
The reality is that the sooner you accept stress, the sooner you are likely to creatively develop new strategies for dealing with whatever is stressing you out.
When you learn to see stress as normal, you will improve your confidence to deal with stress as your beliefs manifest themselves as self-fulfilling prophecies.
Talk to close friends and loved ones
Talking to other people is a positive response to stress that can help you build resilience. Doing so releases the age-fighting hormone oxytocin and allows us to better connect with others.
By relating to people through stressful experiences you’re able to feel more empathy towards one another and develop more trust, both of which are vital in a meaningful life.
The brain will also reward you by releasing dopamine, encouraging you to proactively reframe and handle stress in the future.
Have a higher purpose
Having a higher purpose is another factor that allows you to reframe stress and turn it into strength.
But your purpose doesn’t need to be religious. You just need to commit to some cause or idea greater than yourself.
Having a greater purpose allows us to give our stress meaning and improves our life expectancy.
This is because we derive meaning from stressful events and are more likely to consider our lives meaningful if we have had them in our past.
Would you like to get a better handle on your stress?
A morning routine can help you do just that, and as a thank you for reading this post we want to offer you our latest eBook for free:
Ben is a freelance writer, and the co-creator of Project Monkey Mind—a new blog for the 21st century solopreneur and young professional who wants to take control of their minds, overcome depression, and lead a life worth living.