Today I’d like to help you understand how you can transmute your stress into power. And if for some reason you do not have time to read this article, then please see the handy flow chart I’ve prepared for you:
In this article you will learn exactly how stress can become a force of good in your life. But this isn’t a post about breathing exercises, yoga, or meditation.
Those are all great techniques and all, but I don’t teach things like that.
What I teach is mindset. All of the techniques in the world won’t help you if your mindset isn’t in the right place.
If you align your mentality, then it doesn’t really matter what techniques you use. You can use them all, you can use none of them…it really doesn’t matter.
So let me offer you a glimpse into my life by teaching you how I see ‘stress’.
And let me remind you that I am an artist. I paint landscapes of the mind. Words are my paintbrushes and Align-mentality is my canvas.
My art comes from direct experience. I don’t paint landscapes that I haven’t seen with my own two eyes…I only teach things that I know to be true.
The biggest challenge I face as an artist is being able to paint accurately the landscape of my own mind, so that you can then see the beauty for yourself.
Just keep in mind that I don’t simply write words of Wisdom or Inspiration…I paint mindsets. And I promise to work hard to paint a mental landscape that’s vivid enough for you to enjoy too.
And when it comes to stress, you’re not only going to get enjoyment, but you’ll find relief as well.
You know that feeling you get when you cross off something big from your to-do list? Something that you really didn’t want to do — maybe taxes — that you finally knocked out.
That feels good right?
Now imagine feeling that every time something stressful comes your way.
What if stress not only didn’t bother you, but it actually empowered you?
Do you think you could benefit from that?
You sure could.
If you’re someone who struggles with stress in life, then I want to help you develop a mindset that will truly set you free from the burden of stress…empowering you to do more, have more, and be more.
But let me first show you how another man saw stress…
His name is Hans Selye and he pioneered research that revealed the enormous impact that stress has on biological organisms.
This man was also an artist. His goal was to demonstrate the difference between positive stress and negative stress.
He distinguished between these two forms of stress in hopes that one day people would be able to grasp the significance of his work.
The man was tired of seeing people suffer.
In essence, Hans made it his life’s mission to show people how to turn stress into power.
The way you can do this, first and foremost, has to do with how you perceive stress.
Take a moment now and say the word “stress” to yourself. What comes to mind? What kind of feelings surface?
If you’re like most people, you think stress is a bad thing. You believe that it feels horrible to be stressed out. You also believe that stress is something that happens to you, not something you create for yourself.
Comrade, these are false beliefs. I’ll show you why in just a second.
Did you know that Mr. Selye was also something of a wordsmith?
He was responsible for coining a popular term you might have heard in Psychology 101: eustress.
The root word of this term, “stress”, takes on a whole new meaning when it is preceded by the prefix “eu-“, which translates to mean “well” or “good”. Put both parts together and you get “good stress”.
Now you might be scratching your head at this point, wondering how stress could ever be “good”.
Let me now illustrate the power of perception when it comes to stress:
Here’s an example: John loves zombie movies…he can’t get enough of them! To John, the scarier the better. His girlfriend, Susie, on the other hand, feels that zombie movies are disgusting…and the constant suspense is “stressful” and overwhelming. Whenever she feels like a zombie is about to pop out of nowhere, it causes her strong feelings of anxiety. But, to John, the suspense is exhilarating.
If you ask Susie what she thinks of Zombie movies, she always says that they’re “gross and stressful”. But if you ask John, he’ll tell you that zombie movies are “awesome and exciting”.
In this example, both people are experiencing the same exact stimulus: suspense in a zombie movie. The difference is that Susie interprets the suspense as stressful and John thinks the suspense is exciting.
If I were to ask you which person is right, you’d probably side with the one who shares your opinion. But what if they’re both right?
In this case, it doesn’t really matter who’s right. John gets to watch his zombie movies in peace and Susie doesn’t have to partake. No big deal.
But what happens when the stimulus is changed from a zombie movie to, let’s say, a heavy workload at your job. All of a sudden it gets a little more tricky.
Susie can’t easily refrain from partaking in the heavy workload at her job, unless she quits altogether and gets a job that’s better for her. This is a bit more difficult than simply not watching zombie movies, isn’t it?
Everyday, Susie is bombarded with lots of work, many demanding clients, and unpleasant interactions with her boss. By the time 5:00 hits, not only is she completely drained…but she’s also extremely resentful of her situation in life.
Susie’s mindset is quite literally toxic to her happiness. Not only that, but her constant stress prohibits her from seeking a way out…whether it be finding a new job or starting her own business. Her stress is disempowering and utterly debilitating.
Meanwhile, John’s in the next office over and he’s absolutely rockin’ it. He has to undo his tie just to help him breathe in the midst of the chaos.
John’s answering three emails at once with a phone on each ear, trying desperately to jot down notes of the things he has to do before lunch. When he finishes the workday, he slams down the phone for the last time and, with a fist pump, gets up from his desk and leaves the office, twirling his keys on one finger, whistling Dixie as he boards the elevator. “Another success,” he confirms to himself, “closed another one.”
So he gets in his car and picks up Susie who is an absolute disaster because her boss said ‘this’, a client did ‘that’, etc. “Today was so stressful,” she remarks. “I was so stressed out that I sent out the wrong report and now I’m worried that my job is on the line.”
John, being the leader that he is, comforts her and reminds her that while it may be the case that she loses her job, in the end it’s a good thing. John tells Susie to keep in mind that she is not her job. Her job is not her identity. What matters is not your performance as a ‘worker’…what matters is your performance as a human being.
And some of the biggest failures ever to step foot inside of Corporate America were able to emerge as successes, simply because of their mindsets.
You will never be able to control what stressors are fired into your life. But you can always control how you respond to them.
John, you see, is a man of faith. He believes that all things in the universe are designed for your own good…for your own positive evolution.
Sure, there are times when he questions this. But in his greatest moments of clarity, John realizes that all negative events, including stress, are designed for one’s highest possible benefit.
Susie avidly resists this truth, even though she can plainly see the fruits of John’s optimistic mindset: he has a successful business, never seems to age, has a true zest and passion for life, and smiles almost all the time. Even when John gets hit hard with life’s challenges, he’s always able to find a way out of the darkness in a short amount of time.
Susie has always just attributed it to “good genes” or a “desirable brain chemistry”. What she doesn’t see is the massive amount of hard work John has been doing in order to cultivate a mindset that helps him succeed.
Generally speaking, when John experiences a stressful situation, his brain naturally goes into “eustress perception mode”. But when Susie encounters a stressful scenario, she immediately reverts back to perceiving “distress”.
Before Hans Selye came along, people weren’t aware that there was a difference between eustress and distress.
They always just thought that some people have more stressful lives than others. Between you and I, comrade, we both know by now that nothing could be further from the truth.
“Ugghh…no one knows the stress I have to deal with,” they say.
Psshh…try telling that to my man Selye over here representin’ the ‘Eustress Lifestyle’
The point is, you’re always going to have something to stress about. Everyone does.
So instead of trying to change the thing that’s stressing you out, why don’t you just decide to change your mind about it?
Not everything that stresses you out in life is as easy as refraining from watching zombie movies. In reality, you’re going to face tough situations that you can’t just simply walk away from.
Some people cope with stress by just ignoring it. Research shows that “trying to avoid stress can be counter-effective. Reducing stress by denying or avoiding potentially stressful issues can cause increased stress down the line when these stressors expand and perseverate (Farach, Mennin, Smith & Mandelbaum, 2008).”
According to this research, the way to “beat” stress, if you will, is to accept it. Having an acceptance of stress allows you to focus on the only part you have control over: your response.
This means dramatically changing your mindset. Stop trying to avoid stress and learn to embrace it instead. You can do this by adopting a mindset that sees stress as an enabler.
Stress may very well seem like an obstacle. But you must always remember, comrade, that the obstacle IS the path.
Learn to face stress head on. Stop trying to dodge it, avoid it, or duck under it. You can’t. You won’t.
Instead, look at stress as a potentially formative experience. Learn to see it as a positive challenge.
Don’t be distressed by stressful events in life — they’re there for your own good.
Trust me when I say that there’s a ton of benefit to learning how to effectively perceive stress. Literally everything in your reality will change when you understand the truth about stressful situations in your life.
The difference between someone experiencing “eustress” and someone experiencing “distress” is quite vast. For one thing, people experiencing eustress actually see it as healthy. They have cultivated a belief that stress makes them stronger….more powerful.
“If one thinks, believes, and expects stress to have enhancing consequences (a “stress-is-enhancing” mindset), those enhancing consequences will be more likely; if one thinks, believes and expects stress to have debilitating consequences (a “stress-is-debilitating” mindset), those debilitating consequences will be more likely (Changing Stress Mindsets, 8).”
A mindset of eustress also has enormous physical health benefits associated with it. People who have a stress-is-enhancing mindset are more youthful and energetic, have more vitality, age more slowly, have higher self-esteem, smile and laugh more, and are able to be more present with the things they love most in life.
Not only that, but people who actively switch their mindsets about life’s stressors show an increased happiness and satisfaction with life. This means they get to experience more of the “good stuff” that life has to offer.
If you’re constantly stressed out about one thing or another, then enjoying life is immeasurably difficult. Being present with your child, your loved one, your meal, your relaxation, etc. is almost impossible when you’re under the effects of negative stress (distress). High negative stress basically renders you a zombie…a living dead person waiting for the death of your body to catch up to your already-deceased spirit.
This is a big, big problem! According to this study, Americans in general experience anywhere from moderate to high stress at any given time. Not only that but almost half of the people surveyed reported that their stress has actually increased over the last five years.
Let me ask you this: do you think someone who’s constantly stressed out about money, for example, is in any kind of position of power over their situation?
“When stress causes distress, it can affect performance negatively by stifling creative problem solving and inhibiting attention, concentration, and effective decision-making (Shapiro, Brown & Biegel, 2007; Shapiro, Shapiro, & Schwartz 2000).”
Well, we’ve learned a lot so far, haven’t we?
Now that you’re sufficiently primed, I’d like to paint a picture of exactly what I personally do to effectively utilize stress when it comes my way.
As with anything, the first step is always awareness. As soon as you feel that tension begin to arise in your body, you now have several ways to tackle it.
Method #1 – Grab the Bull by the Horns
If you can clearly identify what is causing you the stress, then your first option is just to knock it out. People become stressed because they perceive something to be too difficult or cumbersome for them to handle. This fear usually leads to procrastination, which only perpetuates the problem.
Comrade, if something has been put in front of you, then you can handle it. Trust me on this one.
The way you beat this type of stress is to face the fear head-on. Locate that thing you’re afraid of and stand up to it…don’t back down. There is great freedom in facing your fears and it will give you the courage and confidence to tackle increasingly bigger and more sophisticated problems.
This method can be used if there is one stressor or many stressors. If there are multiple things stressing you out, then dive right in and tackle the biggest bear first. Go after the most daunting/scariest/intimidating problem right away.
Method #2 – Become Hyper-Aware
If you’re unable to easily identify one, single thing that’s stressing you out, then you might just want to focus on the stress itself as the primary stressor, since stress tends to have a “snowballing” effect.
To do this effectively, you want to rely on your breath. Be extremely still and focus on inhaling and exhaling. There are about ten thousand different breathing techniques out there but you don’t need any of them. Do what feels comfortable to you. Inhale and exhale, holding for as long as you wish.
Focus on where in your body you feel the stress. Feel free to play with it…move it around, change its “color”, or just allow the full extent of the discomfort to blossom like a flower. Remember: the stress cannot hurt you…only your reaction to it can.
Method #3 – Take a Break
Sometimes not even the best of us can beat stress. At times it might seem like more and more stress just keeps piling up until you’re completely debilitated and don’t even know where to begin. And even if you did know where to start, you’re so drained that you don’t even have the energy to lift a finger.
We’ve all been here before. The difference is now you’re equipped with tools. Method #3 is my favorite tool because it is quite paradoxical…and I love paradoxes. Not only that, but you can combine this method with #2, forming a powerful alliance that will allow you to tackle any issue(s) that might be causing the stress.
Let’s say you have a bunch of things that all need to get done in the near future. Imagine yourself at your busiest, and then imagine yourself even busier than that. What you want to do in this situation, is take 10-15 minutes to relax in a quiet, preferably dark place.
If you don’t have access to a quiet, dark place, then just put on headphones with some relaxing ambient or classical music and cover your eyes with something. For me, it works best if I lie down on my back.
Get comfortable and slow your heart rate down. Focus on relaxing. Tell yourself there’s no reason to stress out. Remind yourself that stressing out is only counter-productive. Remember that you are a biological being that does not function optimally under heavy amounts of distress.
There are two choices: 1) over-stress and potentially make things worse than they are, or 2) relax, get your mind back, and then do things the right way.
Most people can’t handle this method because they panic and say, “What!? I have a million things to do and this guy wants me to just sit still and do nothing!? He must be out of his mind!”
“An intelligent person grasps logic. A wise person grasps paradox.”
And there you have it — the three methods that I personally use to handle any stressful situation.
But along with these methods comes an even more powerful mindset. I call it the Extreme Faith Mentality, or EFM.
The first thing you need to get EFM to work is guts. You absolutely gotta have guts to employ this mentality.
Basically, it comes down to seeing the bigger picture in life. Ask yourself questions like, “What’s the purpose of this?” or “Why am I doing this?” or “What am I so worried about?”
You might find relief just by asking these questions. Or, these questions might cause your brain to take off on a logical train of never-ending madness that has you spiraling evermore downward into a fiery abyss of worry-hell.
If the latter happens, then you need to get yourself a God.
The second your monkey mind starts going off in all kinds of crazy directions, take a few moments to contemplate the vastness of the universe. If you think your problems are even remotely significant, you’re wrong.
And if you think you’re all alone to fight your problems all on your own, you’re wrong again.
This is why faith is so important. If you believe in anything…anything at all…then learn to believe that events and circumstances in your life are ALWAYS, not sometimes, unfolding for your — and the universe’s — highest good.
It will take you a fair amount of brainwashing for this fact to become your reality. You might even have to cut some people out of your life who might otherwise make it more difficult for you to subscribe to this fact.
As far as I can tell, it doesn’t really matter if you refer to this energy as God, Christ, Allah, the Universe, Karma, Nature, Your Higher Self, etc. Just pick your God and go with it 100%.
If you can do this, then all of a sudden your problems shrink down to zero.
Sit still and picture yourself as a consciousness being that is being hurled through time. Imagine a stream of your existence running through the fabric of space-time. Picture a vortex that you’ve been thrust into and different images and circumstances are constantly flying right at you.
At the end of this vortex, you see your dream life with everyone and everything you’ve ever wanted. You can either keep traveling down the vortex, tackling things as they come up, or you can press a magic button that allows the circumstance to disintegrate before you.
Each time you press the button, the vortex increases in length. But each time you engage with what’s in front of you, you take on more power and fly down the vortex faster, with more energy.
And now, ask yourself this: how many times have you pressed that button so far in your life? How many times have you tried resisting and avoiding circumstances rather than accepting and embracing them?
Probably more the former than the latter.
What I told you that you might already be where you wanted to be by now, if only you just learned to accept what’s put in front of you?
It doesn’t matter if it’s a stack of bills, a tense relationship situation, an extremely busy workday, or even just fear of an upcoming event…
If something’s causing you stress, there’s only one way around it: through it.
Here’s a quick recap of everything that’s been covered:
- There are two ways to perceive stress, positively (eustress) and negatively (distress)
- Stress doesn’t affect you, your snap assumptions about it does
- You cannot avoid/ignore/repress stressors coming into your life
- There are massive mental, physiological, and spiritual differences between a “stress-is-enhancing” mindset and a “stress-is-debilitating” mindset
- The obstacle is the path
- You’re here to enjoy life…if stress is preventing you from doing that, then you need to reroute
- Three Methods for beating stress: 1) Grab the Bull by the Horns, 2) Become Hyper-Aware, 3) Take a Break
- Develop an “Extreme Faith Mindset (EFM)”
Three Steps to Changing Your Stress Mindset (paraphrased from Changing Stress Mindsets 18-19):
1) Acknowledge your stress, don’t ignore it, pay attention to how it feels
2) Welcome stress, don’t avoid it, say “bring it on”
3) Utilize your stress, don’t “manage” or “combat” it, look for the opportunity stress offers and use it as fuel to meet the underlying demand that’s causing the stress in the first place
Use This Flow Chart for Adopting a “Stress-is-Enhancing” Mindset
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