Making Stress your Friend

March 23, 2021 by: Cheryl Viola, Executive Director, MBA

Stress is a normal part of life.  It is unavoidable. Stress can prompt us to take action, and when managed correctly it can increase performance and productivity. How you manage pressures can distinguish you as a leader.  

For my first office job I worked for a motivational speaker who had me participate in a two-day seminar on learning to speak. One of the things I learned was how to channel stress into positive energy. Stress releases Oxytocin in our brains which is responsible for strengthening our relationships and connecting with others. Oxytocin is released when we share with others and serve others. Dr. McGonigal says the best way to live with stress, is to connect with other people – help them or let them help us. Feeling connected to others gives us value and meaning, as well as a different perspective and positive outlook on life.

Positive Stress Tools:

1.            Positive Attitude.

Optimistic people are more resilient to change, they engage in new challenges even if they don’t succeed. They see change as a positive and an opportunity. Stress is not a barrier to happiness and success; it is a way to grow.

2.            Reframing

Focus on things you can control. We all have limitations. However, we need to recognize when fear is stopping us or if it is something that is out of our control. The way we perceive things is susceptible to change. We make conscious decisions on how we view and react to challenges. By reframing and seeing the situations as opportunities that allow growth and change will help us utilize the stress in a positive way.

3.            Core Beliefs

Your core beliefs reflect your values and life goals. The stronger and more positive your beliefs the more resilient to stress you are. Believing that you can’t (change, adopt a new skill, get a promotion, etc.) is a negative core belief and makes you susceptible to negative reactions to stress. When we believe we are capable of change we are more resilient.

4.            Support Network

A great source of strength and dealing with stress is having a good support network. These people are your sounding boards, they are your cheerleaders, offer advice and perspective. They will also challenge you and stretch you but they will be positive in the way they encourage you.

5.            Physical Exercise

Physical exercise has a way of clearing your mind and helping you to focus. The day I officially took over the leadership as Women’s President, I had feelings of being overwhelmed. I released the nervous energy by going on a 5-mile run. Stanford University professor, Dr. Kelly McGonigal encourages us to embrace stress and make the most of it.

Life will never be stress-free, and I don’t think we would be happy with a stress-free life. Stress prompts us to make changes and to grow. Never stop learning and challenging your mind. Goals help you focus when things seem impossible. Knowledge, integrity, mental and physical endurance can help us become more resilient and turn stress into a friend.