As discussed in last week’s blog, stress is something that can have various effects on us, depending on how we perceive and manage it. It can have both positive and negative effects on our wellbeing and whilst last week’s focus was the negative effects of stress, this week’s post will focus on how to effectively manage stress and harness it into something positive.
The stress curve
The stress curve is a key diagram to illustrate the link between stress and our performance and wellbeing. The curve shows that there is an optimal level of stress that enhances performance, but both low and high levels of stress can have detrimental effects. Beyond or below the point of the ‘peak’ is where stress is either too high or too low.
Low stress tends to be when individuals may lack motivation or focus whilst the optimal stress is where individuals are the most motivated, alert and able to handle the task effectively. Beyond this point is when stress can lead to anxiety, decreased concentration and impaired decision making
Essentially, the stress curve conveys the idea that stress can be beneficial for performance, but excessive stress can be counterproductive. Managing stress effectively and finding the right balance is crucial for maintaining optimal performance in various aspects of life.
Turning stress into a positive thing
Practicing mindfulness can be in the forms of many things, such as journaling or meditating. Engaging in mindfulness allows you to stay present and reduce anxiety about the future. For example, keeping a journal for when you’re stressed can force you to keep in touch with your emotions and reflect on the root of your stressors, and the way yu deal with them. Each time you feel stressed, it can be helpful to make a note of it in your journal, or use a stress tracker on your phone – keeping a daily log will enable you to see patterns and common themes such as:
- What caused your stress
- How you felt, both physically and emotionally
- How you acted in response
- What you did to make yourself feel better
Mindful mediation gently builds an inner strength, so that future stressors have less impact on our happiness and physical well-being. Mindfulness is the basic human ability to be fully present Yes…there is in fact science behind mindful meditation too – mindfulness practice reduces activity in the part of your brain called the amygdala, which is central to switching on your stress response, so effectively, your background level of stress is reduced.
There are meditation apps that cater to different preferences and needs. Here are some popular apps that offer guided sessions, exercises and relaxation techniques.
- Smiling behind
There is nothing more calming than spending quality time with another human being who makes you feel safe and understood. In fact, face-to-face interaction triggers a cascade of hormones that counteract the body’s defensive “fight-or-flight” response.
Keep in mind that the people you talk to don’t have to be able to fix your stress. They simply need to be good listeners.
Making time for fun and relaxation
“Me” time is so important to reduce the stress in your life. Nurturing yourself is a necessity, not a luxury. If you regularly make time for fun and relaxation, you’ll be in a better place to handle life’s stressors.
- Set aside leisure time. Include rest and relaxation in your daily schedule! Don’t allow obligations to prevent you from taking a break from all your responsibilities and recharge your batteries.
- Do something you enjoy everyday – make time for leisure activities that bring you joy, whether it be playing an instrument, hanging out with your friends, or playing a sport you like.
Making some changes to your daily habits could be instrumental in helping you feel better!
Understanding that stress is a part of life but adopting healthy strategies to cope with it can make a significant difference in how it impacts our overall well-being. Remember, if stress becomes overwhelming, it can be really helpful seeking guidance from a mental health professional, and they can provide you with tools and strategies tailored to your individual needs.
Stress is a natural part of life, and transforming stress into a positive force involves adopting a proactive and resilient mindset.