Change resides in the very nature of things. In fact, our biggest strength as a species is being able to adapt to change. We have managed to do this generation after generation by manufacturing opportunities out of challenges. Stress has always been a ubiquitous phenomenon, prevalent in both ancient and modern times. For our ancestors, it was the literally life-saving signal that equipped our bodies to respond effectively to a threat in the physical environment. We commonly refer to this as the fight-or-flight response. In modern times, stress can be as much psychological as it is physical, and if prolonged and untreated it affects health on both of these counts.
But the bottom line is this: stress carries energy. Energy cannot be destroyed, but its form can be changed. It can either feed into our anxious thoughts or be transformed into something more positive and healthier. This article elucidates how to channel your stressful energy into something productive, relaxing or both, depending on the need of the moment. Here are some ways in which you can make your stress work for you:
- Spark your creativity. Have you ever noticed that some of the best ideas seem to strike when you’re in the midst of exams or knee-deep in work? Ideas tend to flow better when the mind is highly engaged as opposed to when it is idle. Keep an eye out for any good ideas or innovative solutions you might stumble upon that may help on a current or future project.
- Renew your view. Research shows a large effect of stress depends on how you perceive stress. If you perceive stress as always harmful, it may act as a self-fulfilling prophecy. It’s important to keep things in perspective: in the short term, stress can actually improve your performance, boost your immune system, make you more social and learn better. Chronic stress is dangerous, however.
- It is good for change. When you get too comfortable, it can be hard to make much needed changes. If you’re looking to make changes in your lifestyle, break an old habit or make a new one, stress can help. By its very nature, it can energize you, challenge you and get you moving. The discomfort from stress may actually motivate you to expand your horizons.
- Playground for self-awareness. Whenever you are feeling stressed, learn to pause every once in a while. Reflecting on your stress response can actually teach you a great deal about yourself. You can learn what your triggers are, assess whether you need to keep working or take a break, understand what is motivating you or holding you back.
- Release the tension. An excellent outlet for your nervous energy is physical movement. Exercise in any form – dance, walking, sport or a gym workout – releases endorphins that leave you feeling good, energize you for the remainder of the day, as well as help you get better sleep at night thus countering one of the negative effects of stress: sleep disturbances.
- Channel it into love. Social relations and personal interests tend to take a hit when you are feeling stressed out, but you can actually turn to emotional connections or a hobby to help you cope. When you are feeling under a lot of pressure, switch off from work – at least for a while – and prioritize the things that matter to you. Connect with a loved one or a pet, devote half an hour to a hobby, or even take a power nap.
In other words, try to tune in to your own emotional and physical needs, no matter what other demands you have during the day. Being aware of your personal stress response can help you use it better to your advantage. You can see it as a signal to stop for a moment and reflect on your needs, a push to change a pattern, an opportunity for self-awareness, a call for a time-out in a busy day or simply a reminder to be mindful. Use the energy in the way that you need.