Stress: it’s one of those things we tend to automatically label as “bad.” But what if we looked at it from a different point of view? What if we learned to understand it better — and even use it as a constructive tool?
What is stress, really?
Stress is a signal in our brains and bodies that pops up whenever we face a challenge, a threat, or even something exciting. The signal itself is actually neutral. We can perceive it as a good thing or a bad thing, depending on our point of view.
Some people channel the amped up energy of stress into taking action. Others might freeze up, feeling paralyzed. It’s really up to us how we use that adrenaline rush. And you can consciously change your perspective to change your experience of stress.
When we feel stressed, our bodies release adrenaline. This hormone revs up our heart rate, blood pressure, and mental awareness. It’s as if our bodies are giving us a dose of jet fuel to tackle whatever we’re facing. Which can be lifesaving in certain situations (like running from a bear, for example).
Now, most of us aren’t running from bears in our day-to-day lives. But stress can still be useful. It activates our bodies and minds, getting us focused and ready to take action.
Stress is meant to be short-lived. But even low-grade stress can become chronic — whether about work, family conflicts, or other life events. And if we don’t address or change our perception to transform that stress, it can lead to health issues like anxiety, depression, digestive issues, headaches, or even heart problems.
But that’s the thing: our mindset can make all the difference in the way we experience stress.
How do we reframe stress?
To reframe stress, we must first recognize when we’re feeling it. Sometimes, we might not even realize we’re stressed until after we’ve reacted. So it’s important to tune into our bodies and minds, and pay attention to how we’re feeling. Are we feeling jittery? Are we having trouble concentrating? Are we snapping at friends or family members? These can all be signs of stress.
So pay attention to what’s going on in your body and mind. Notice when your heart rate rises, when you’re feeling constricted or pressured, or if you feel fluttering sensations of anxiety. See if you can recognize it before you react.
Once you’ve recognized that you’re stressed, the next step is to consciously reframe it. Instead of automatically labeling your stressful experience as a bad thing, you can see it as a motivator to take constructive action. You can use stress like an energizing superpower to help you tackle whatever challenge you’re facing. And then, you can practice coming back to a relaxed state.
When you make it a habit to reframe your stress, you’ll find it doesn’t hold you back. It loses its power over you.