Did you know …
… 43 percent of people suffer from work overload?
… 38 percent experience anxiety or depression on the job?
… 49 percent of employees report burnout?
We cannot escape the stressors we face in our day-to-day lives, but we can learn how to make stress work to our benefit. Through stress, we can be better husbands, wives, employees and friends. We’ve been conditioned for so long to avoid stress and try to bury it, but if we do, it eventually will destroy us physically and psychologically.
So, how can we build the skills to help us perceive stress as good and make it work positively in our lives?
Contrary to what most of us think, stress isn’t bad and isn’t harmful unless we allow it to be. According to multiple studies on stress, researchers have found that the way we look at stress can change how it affects us. Our job is to move theory into practice, and I will describe a few resiliency tools you will need to make this happen.
Your resiliency toolbox should contain the following:
- Community connection
Let’s first look at physiology – the challenge response. When we encounter stress, often are heart rate increases, we may get sweaty, or we may become anxious. Instead of believing these physical responses are negative, try thinking positively. For example, your elevated heart rate is priming you to excel at what you are encountering, to take on the challenge you are facing, to perform better. Studies have shown that individuals who perceive physical changes to stress positively, perform better and have greater feelings of wellbeing. The way we perceive the physiological symptoms of stress can super charge our bodies to excel if we remain in a positive place.
The second tool in the resiliency toolbox is grit. You are pursuing something bigger than yourself despite its setbacks or obstacles because on the other side, it is worth it. Think about it. We stress about things that are important to us; things that are meaningful to us. Meaning and stress are intrinsically connected; the more we try to pull away from stress, the more we take away meaning from our lives. Choosing meaning is more important than avoiding discomfort. What is that meaning you are after?
Think about the parable of the brick layer. When asked what his job is, the first bricklayer says it is laying bricks. The second bricklayer says he is helping to build a church, and the third bricklayer says he is building the house of God.
The third tool to build good stress is anti-fragility – the harder it gets, the better you get.
Ask yourself these three questions that will help you build anti-fragility and the best life for yourself:
- What am I going to focus on? Am I going to focus on the good or the bad, the right or the wrong, the things you can control or those I cannot control?
- What does this mean? How important is this in my life?
- What am I going to do? Am I going to retreat or go forward and face the challenge?
The last tool – the one I consider the most important tool in the resiliency toolbox – is community connection. In times of crisis, we need other people for support. Don’t bottle up the stress in your life and hide it from others; bottled up stress is like a volcano waiting to erupt. Don’t carry the burden of doing it alone.
All of these tools will help alleviate the damaging effects of stress on our lives.
Remember: stress is not the enemy. It can make us happier and healthier.