Time and again, we have been told how stress is bad for our health. However, a new book, The Upside Of Stress, by American psychiatrist Kelly McGonigal, sheds light on how stress can have positive effects.
According to the author, “Embracing stress can empower you when you face challenges. It can enable you to use the energy of stress without burning out. It can turn stressful experiences into a source of social connection rather than isolation. And finally, it can lead you to new ways of finding meaning in suffering (sic).”
Experts agree that it is indeed about perception. According to them, if we train our mind to see stress in a positive way, we end up using it to trigger positive changes in our lives. It is a scientifically-established fact that stress is of two kinds — bad stress is called ‘distress’ and good stress is called ‘eustress’. Eustress adds zest to normal activities. It drives a person to do something that might be considered difficult or impossible.
“Eustress serves as a motivator. It energises and improves one’s performance. However, it should be short term. Stress, which persists over a period of time, cannot be considered positive, and will cause wear and tear on a person’s psyche,” says Kersi Chavda, psychiatrist. However, with practice, one can turn certain types of stress around to give positive health benefits. Neeta V Shetty, a city-based psychotherapist and life coach, says, “Stress is unavoidable in life. It is up to us to turn stress into distress or eustress.”
Here are the positive facets to stress
1. Stress triggers the fight or flight response in humans. This causes the brain to focus on a single activity at a time. Our body channels the energy into completing that particular task.
2. Stress acts as a reminder to not procrastinate. Use the energy to complete the task in hand.
3. Stress serves as a trigger to analyse a problem. Why am I unhappy at work? Is it the job or the work culture or a colleague or a boss? Analysing a situation usually reveals to you a solution that was right in front of your eyes.
4. Stress challenges you. When you overcome a challenge, you become more confident. Stress helps up your confidence.
5. Stress helps you hone your assertiveness. You eventually learn to say no. It pushes you to be realistic about how much work you can complete in a given period of time.
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6. Stress inclines you to move out of your comfort zone Experts say that most of the positive transformations in individuals happen when they step out of their comfort zones.
7. Stress improves adaptability. When you are stressed about a particular situation, which you cannot change, you learn to adapt yourself to it. This adds newer dimensions to your personality.
8. Stress strengthens relationships. When you are stressed about an interpersonal relationship, it means you are concerned about things that are not quite right. When you use this stress in a positive way and communicate with your partner, it helps sort things.
9. Stress makes you expressive. There are some things that remain unsaid as the person is not comfortable voicing them out. However, stress pushes the person to open up and this relieves the mental pressure to a great extent.
10. Stress motivates you. Many a times, we may not realise it but stress is one of the factors that causes us to come up with newer agendas for life. It motivates us to get to the next level.
Things to do
1. Whenever you are stressed, pause, breathe and ask yourself, ‘Why exactly am I stressed’? Stressing out without complete knowledge of the underlying cause is futile.
2. Don’t let nervousness get the best of you. Get excited that you are about to undergo something drastically different .
3. Always use your last positive experience with stress for reference. The feel-good factor will enable you to see things in positive light in the current scenario too.
- With inputs from Namrata Dagia, clinical psychologist.