3 Simple Ways to Harness the Power of Stress

Frankl space quoteOver the years we have heard time and again that stress is an enemy – a ubiquitous foe to performance and health.  To protect ourselves,  we are encouraged to  “manage” or  reduce stress.

But…  what if we have it all wrong?

Kelly McGonigal in her June 2013 TED talk on “How to Make Stress Your Friend” shares that it is not stress,  but rather our attitude toward stress,  which controls the biological outcome of the experience. Upon what aspects of stress do we choose to focus?

Dr. McGonigal emphasizes that we need to re-frame the narrative we tell ourselves.  We need to remember that our rapidly beating heart, the butterflies in our stomach, the perspiration, etc. are all part of our bodies’ preparation for a challenge. With stress,  we have enhanced awareness, improved coordination and decreased response time.  If we view stress as something which propels us forward,  as opposed to something which holds us back, the negative cardiovascular and cortisolic impacts are avoided.  Further,  with such an attitude, exposure to stress  strengthens us,  leads to resilience, heals heart tissue, and enhances social connection with others!

Stress is not our enemy.  Further,  as recognized by Viktor Frankl,  there is space between the stimulus of stress and our response to the same which provides great opportunity for growth.  So how do we seize this opportunity and harness the power of stress?

There are 3 simple steps:

1.  Keep It In Context.  The long term importance of the event likely pales in comparison to our  greater priorities such as faith, family and health.  We need to remember why we are engaged in the stress-inducing event. Aren’t we willing to endure some momentary discomfort so as to provide for our family,  share and care for others, etc.

2.  Healthy Framing. We have the ability frame the stressful event.  For instance,  we don’t have to give a speech.  We have the opportunity to do so.   We don’t have to get our finances under control.  We voluntarily and selflessly make hard choices to live within our means.

3. Change and Control.  We need to be able to adapt.  We need to be open to unanticipated opportunities and challenges.  Life will not follow our script.   We need to live out the serenity prayer penned by the American theologian, Reinhold Niebuhr:

“God, grant me the serenity to accept things I cannot change,

The courage to change the things I can,

And the wisdom to know the difference.”


[If you enjoyed this article, please consider reading The Secret to Overcoming Obstacles and The Secret to Growth.]


Originally posted on http://SimpleLifeReboot.com



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