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The Productivity Cycle: How Stress Can Lead to Improved Performance

Exploiting the hidden benefits of stress

Stress comes in various shades; the more reason why we can’t outrightly dismiss all of it as bad. In this article, we will shed light on the manifold merits of courting stress. You will be surprised after realizing what you’ve been missing all along.

Various forms of stress

Psychologists categorize stress as eustress, acute stress, and chronic stress.

Eustress is said to be ‘good stress,’ it is the type we experience when we get all excited. For example, this kind of excitement rush accompanies high-adrenaline activities like sky-diving or going on a roller coaster ride.

Acute stress manifests whenever we have to institute some form of inertia. For example, when learning a new language or starting a new exercise regimen. Meanwhile, chronic stress emanates from repeated exposure to stressors.

“While too little stress can lead to boredom and depression, too much can cause anxiety and poor health. The right amount of acute stress, however, tunes up the brain and improves performance and health.”

Robert Sanders

Eustress and acute stress are healthy and can yield positive outcomes. On the contrary, it is essential to avoid chronic stress triggers like a draining job, repeated sexual abuse, or unhappy home life.

Nonetheless, psychologists have discovered that ‘good stress’ can make us better. Eustress helps calibrate our nervous system and our fight-or-flight hormones. And acute stress allows us to garner enough willpower to set new goals and follow through.

Is avoiding all stress a good answer?

Perhaps you’re screaming: “Let us eliminate all stressors already!”, from the back alley of your mind. You may find yourself receding into depression if you do so. Why? Well, researchers have found a direct link between stress and having a meaningful life. Invariably, ignoring, avoiding, or eliminating stress will make you live below your potential.

Do you want a meaningful life? If yes, don’t avoid stress. Deal with stress by harnessing it productively.

Health benefits of stress

According to Healthline, there are four notable benefits of stress, of which many are surprisingly ignorant. Timothy Legg and Valencia Higuera made the following findings after sifting through wades of stress-specific research:

1. Better cognitive function

Try self-evaluating yourself during seasons of high stress at work. It may come as a surprise that you have a higher turnover of productivity during such circumstances. A suitable buffer for comparison would be days when things go slow and steady.

2. Keeps your body on the offensive

We mentioned earlier that eustress primes your nervous system. ‘Good stress’ has a way of sharpening the immune system. In effect, stress (not the chronic type) helps your body fight infections better.

3. It makes you a stronger person

“The smith’s hammer helps harden the metal.” Each time stress stretches you beyond your limit, you become hardy – and more vigorous. Living in your comfort zone makes you soft, sensitive, and vulnerable.

4. A good trainer for fetuses

Studies have found that mild stress can have far-reaching effects on pregnant women. Medical experts do not recommend intentionally exposing pregnant women to stress. But the findings establish that the mother and child are likely to turn out more healthy during birth and child development.

5. The morphing of energy

Stress is a form of energy. Close kin of stress, the friction, transformed scientists’ views about the energy exploitation only some decades ago. In the early years of mechanical innovation, engineers attempted to eliminate friction because it reduced machines’ efficiency. However, they subsequently realized that friction has more benefits than drawbacks.

Likewise, without stress, it is almost impossible to achieve productivity. Now, the reasonable question to ask is: “How can you transform stress into a productive form?”

How to change your stress perception for the better

Several scientific studies have exposed how much impact mindset has on our opinion of certain concepts. For example, human trials of placebos show that a simple mind shift is enough to help a sick patient recover.

Kelly McGonigal offers professional counsel in her book – The Upside of Stress: Why Stress is Good for You, and How to Get Good at It.

The author recommends the 3-step formula for changing your mindset about stress:

Step 1. Learn a new point of view

Firstly, you need to come to terms with the following facts about stress:

  • Experiencing stress enhances my performance and productivity.

  • Experiencing stress improves my health and vitality.

  • Experiencing stress facilitates my learning and growth.

  • The effects of stress are positive and should be utilized.

Step 2. Do an exercise that encourages you to adopt and apply the new mindset

You may have to recite repeatedly the new viewpoints about stress until it sticks. Next, seek information, help, or advice on eliminating the stressors.

Afterward, take active steps to remove the basis of the stress. A stressor that registers a one-time occurrence should push you beyond your natural limits. And in the long run, cause you to grow and develop. Summarily, you can utilize stress as a trigger for growth.

Step 3. Share the idea with others

Whenever you rehearse how harnessing stress positively affects your life, it naturally influences others to adopt a similar mind shift. Besides serving as motivation for others, you get to remind yourself of the positive potential of stress.

We’ve undoubtedly answered your question of how bad or good stress is. Several research-backed resources are available to make you better harness stress. We can save you the trouble of having to read wades of research journals on the subject.

The Upside of Stress is full of fascinating facts about stress and tips on how you can better deal with it. Go to the Headway app to read a 13-minute summary of the book to get all the key ideas and start using stress to your advantage!

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