We’re all searching for ways to get rid of stress. But what if we viewed it differently? Rather than perceiving it as an overwhelming sense of helplessness, what if we saw stress as an opportunity? What an incredible shift this would make in our lives!
According to research done by Shawn Achor and Alia Crum, Ph.D., an assistant professor of psychology at Stanford University, stress may actually help us thrive as long as we are not afraid of it (1). Achor and Crum worked with 380 managers at UBS, the financial company, where many were “stressed-out”. One-half of the group was shown an instructional video emphasizing the possible benefits of stress and the other half did not view the video. Interestingly, in the group that viewed the video, the rate of stress-related health issues was markedly reduced by 23%. This group experienced fewer headaches, backaches, and fatigue although their stress levels remained the same. Even their productivity increased!
“This research shows us that while stress is inevitable, its effects upon our bodies and minds are not”, Achor says. I believe this is great news! If we can flip our viewpoint on stress and see it as a challenge, we can become happier and experience fewer health concerns.
The 40-Day Challenge – How does this relate?
During the 40 – day Challenge, I, and many of the participants have expressed stress with the daily changes in diet, exercise and lifestyle habits. Yet through our weekly conference calls, I have seen the group shift from a sense of apprehension to a sense of confidence and empowerment. Within the “challenge”, there is inevitable “change” – an internal shift in mindset. These daily changes are now being accepted and incorporated more easily.
For example, I have made some shifts in my own behavior. I have started reading 10-15 pages of one of my inspirational book (of which I have hundreds!) at night rather than staring like a zombie in front of the TV. I find my mind is clearer and calmer. Sure, I still watch my occasional episode CSI – Criminal Intent but I don’t need to watch 1-2 episodes every night. I’ve even noticed that my sleep is calmer due to less mental and visual stimulation.
During my nighttime readings, I came across one of my favorites, “The Compound Effect”, written by Darren Hardy. He emphasizes that to “be extraordinary we need to go beyond the ordinary”. Small changes in how we perceive and react to things can have an enormous impact on how we cope with stressful situations. Making small shifts from ordinary behaviors to “extraordinary” behaviors can lift us to new levels of happiness and well-being. Viewing stress as a challenge has a positive influence on our lives.
What “challenges” do you have ahead of yourself? Try flipping your mindset switch from “stress” to “opportunity” and see how far you can go!
1). Rethinking stress: the role of mindsets in determining the stress response.
Alia J Crum, Peter Salovey, and Shawn Achor
Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 104(4):716 (2013) PMID 23437923