If you asked people what they could live without, it might not surprise you that many would put stress at the top of their list. It’s important to understand that there is a clear difference between acute and chronic stress. Acute, short-lived and temporary stress may be positive: it’s localized and has an end in sight. Chronic or prolonged stress, however, is dangerous and damaging to every aspect of your health.
There’s no doubt that even acute stress can be highly unpleasant, even debilitating. Stress is known to reduce immunity, making you vulnerable to a vast range of illnesses, and is also linked to depression, anxiety, weight gain and sleep disturbances…just to name a few of the ill effects.
Still, every emotion has a purpose and stress is no different—surprisingly, it has its fair share of benefits! In fact, focusing on the positive aspects of stress can sometimes be enough to help us use it to our advantage. Let’s take a look at 6 benefits of stress and how we can use them to get ahead!
The Upside of Stress:
- Can be used as a motivating force
- Helps us learn to see challenges as opportunities
- Enhances physical performance
- Enhances cognitive performance
- Helps us redefine what’s important
- Gives us a chance to delegate and get support
- Use stress as a motivating force
Stress can be a great motivator. Just consider: the stress of needing more money might push you to upgrade your resume, network more and seek better job opportunities. Another example – if single life is getting you stressed and down, you may be more motivated to accept set-ups or seek out trustworthy dating sites and attend singles events in the hopes of finding your true match.
- See challenges/stress as opportunities and a chance to make changes for the better
Every challenge presents an opportunity, be it for growth, personal expansion or a chance to view things in a different light and make subsequent changes. Sometimes, it’s during the very stressful times and hardships that you are able to extract the best lessons and opportunities. A new connection, an opportunity to start over, to rid your life of something that is not serving you…these are all positive outcomes that might become available after enduring a stressful experience.
- It’s a cognitive enhancer
Positive stress may improve intelligence—stress boosts several aspects of one’s mental ability. Due to hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol, stress can help us focus, zone in on a specific task and get the job done. Whilst chronic stress can interfere with memory and recall, acute stress can boost it. In other words, a little stress while revising for an exam or a presentation can help you retain and retrieve information as needed.
- It’s physically enhancing
During the stress response, your adrenal glands release adrenaline, speeding up heart rate and metabolism. This can boost reaction and response times, increase performance reflexes and help fight fatigue during exercise. For professional and amateur athletes alike, a little stress can actually be a good thing!
- Reflect, review, redefine
Often, when you endure stress, it provides an incentive to figure out what’s working and what’s not. I have personally been through this process on many occasions. It will take an open mind, the ability to review your current path and perhaps even an acceptance of constructive criticism, but if you give yourself permission, stress can help you welcome an alternative course.
- A chance to delegate and get support.
I’ve heard it many times: learn to delegate; ask for support; learn to say no; don’t be everything to everyone. I remember a time when I felt so overwhelmed, doing the jobs of many—at my own expense. It was too much. I also remember the liberation I felt when I was able to get support, delegate and simply surrender to the fact that I can’t do everything for everyone. This could simply mean getting help at home with laundry or, turning to an editor for help with your writing work. Whatever your needs may be, figure out the support you need and allow yourself to take a load off!
Do you feel less stressed already? I hope so! It’s liberating to know that your stress can be productive and serve you well, as long as it comes in short doses. I’d love to hear your stress-success stories—feel free to share with all of us!