Stress is often considered a negative. It makes most people uncomfortable and impedes sleep while boosting inflammation, blood pressure, and the risk of a heart attack or stroke. It can also make you engage in unhealthy behavior like binge eating and drinking.
It may feel like you have no control over your stress response. After all, your body is hard-wired to utilize it. But there are ways to harness stressful energy for good. In times of great stress, knowing how to use it for good may have never been more important.
One of the first steps to using stress for good is not ignoring it. Taking an overly-positive or “Pollyanna” view of the world is just stress-suppression and will likely make things worse. Don’t deny, but rather, acknowledge and accept.
Once you’ve taken a moment to do that, try and find and an upside.
So, instead of taking a fight-or-flight response, consider a tend-and-befriend response. This would mean recognizing the situation, then reaching out to strengthen your network, comfort yourself and others, and avoid falling into a negative space.
For example, the COVID-10 pandemic has been a major stressor gripping people across your community, the country, and the world. Reaching out to others via phone or video chat can assure you that loved ones are alright. Doing so can also offer personal comfort.
Keeping these networks intact and talking to people can boost levels of oxytocin, a feel-good hormone. Talking to people also offers a positive alternative to watching cycles of media coverage.
When you’re feeling stress try to take a moment and recognize why. Next, find ways to capitalize on it. A few ways to help shift your mindset include:
Recognizing that stress is energy and it can be used in a variety of ways.
Don’t deny the stress, but understand that you have control over your response and actions.
When it hits, try to do a small act of kindness to offer a mental reward.
Examine the stress to see if there are any valuable lessons you can learn from it and what possible takeaways are.
You can’t always control when stress hits, but you can control how you react to it. The more positively and productively you react, the better it will be for physical and mental health.
Using energy for good can increase blood flow and mood, thereby eliminating some of the health risks associated with stress.