We permanently activate our fight-flight-freeze-appease response when constantly performing at our peak. This acute stress response activates our sympathetic nervous system and keeps us unhealthy or from experiencing deeper joy and fulfilment in life.
Blogs and TED talks abound on how we’re living in an age where our stress level is way above a healthy normal, and we need to find ways to reduce our stress to enjoy more of life.
Stress can be relieved in so many ways – from meditation, making better choices, and learning to say no and establishing boundaries – but one way is to learn how to control the controllable and let go of the things we can’t control.
For athletes, they say that we can’t control the rain, road surface, wind, or competitors, but we can control our attitude, effort, focus, fitness and preparation. In psychology, they speak about realising that we can’t control other people’s behaviours and emotions, only our own. When it comes to financial planning, we say that we can’t control the markets, only our investing behaviour.
As we’ve often said before, not all stress is bad. A research paper by Crum & Crum (2018) noted that people who adopt the mindset that “stress is enhancing” experience more exceptional performance and fewer negative health symptoms.
If viewed positively, stress is essential to moving from a fixed mindset to a growth mindset. Having worked with athletes and Navy SEALS, Crum and Crum propose a three-step approach to harnessing the positive aspects of stress while minimising any negative health impacts.
Step one – “See your stress”
Don’t attempt to ignore stress. Label it. Seeing it as something positive rather than to be avoided can change our physical, cognitive, and behavioural response to it.
See it, and label it: “I am stressed because I haven’t completed the report yet.”
Step two – “Own it”
When you are at risk of being overwhelmed by stress, own it.
Own it: “I recently got the promotion I wanted; this is part of my new role.”
Step three – “Use it”
Your body and mind have evolved to respond to stress; use that energy, alertness, and heightened concentration to boost your mind.
Use it: Be open to the opportunity. Use the stress to energise and motivate yourself.
Once we separate stressful factors into those we can control and those that we can’t, we can begin to healthily see it, own it and use it!