In the book Before Happiness, Shawn Achor discusses how simply knowing about the benefits of stress can cause you to not have as many physical symptoms that are normally associated with distress. He writes, “Those who had watched the video highlighting the enhancing rather than debilitating effects of stress reported a 23 percent drop in physical symptoms associated with distress (such as headaches, backaches, fatigue). What’s more, on a scale of 1 to 4, productivity assessment moved from 1.9 to 2.6-nearly a 30 percent increase.”
He was comparing groups who had watched a video about the negative effects of stress and those who watched a video about the benefits of stress. Both videos were completely accurate. You have always had the ability to focus on the benefits of stress instead of the negative effects. But, maybe you never heard about them.
Benefits of Stress
From Before Happiness:
- Hormones released in the stress response actually boost performance on cognitive tasks and memory.1
- The narrowing of perspective recruits attentional resources and can actually increase the speed at which the brain processes information. 2
- Stress can fuel psychological thriving by positively influencing the underlying biological processes implicated in physical recovery and immunity. 3
- Stress and adversity have in some cases been shown to facilitate the acquisition of mental toughness, deeper social bonds, strengthened priorities, and a sense of meaning, a phenomenon called post-traumatic growth.4
Benefits of Being Bullied
I’ve written posts on social media before about how it’s great to be bullied when you’re younger and learn how to become mentally resilient to it. I’ve compared it to hitting your plants. A tree will grow stronger when it’s hit. Plants also need to be blown around by wind to be encouraged to get deeply rooted in the soil. This is what we call getting thick skin. You become capable of weathering the storms of life after you go through stressful situations. To be strong and stable you need to go through tough times to build up resiliency.
Exercise is Stress
Another way to view this is to remember how we build muscle. The way to build muscle is to stress your muscles while working out. This stress creates tiny tears and then your body starts repairing itself when you rest. Our bodies build back better after being stressed. For the most part, people realize exercise is good for our bodies even though it is stressful. Try to remember this when you face stressors in other situations.
You Have the Power To Shift Your Focus
If you have two ways to view something, and one way makes you feel good and the other way makes you feel bad, why would you want to focus on what makes you feel bad? Why not choose to focus on that which makes you feel better?
Whenever you feel stressed or frightened, consider looking at this situation as an opportunity to become stronger, and more resilient. Consider being thankful that it’s helping you to focus on something that really matters to you (if it didn’t matter to you, you wouldn’t be stressed about it).
This is why I like practicing Ho’oponopono in stressful situations. It helps me to put a brake on my negative thoughts, and re-focus on the positives. The positives are just as much true. We just sometimes have a difficult time thinking about them when we’re so focused on the negatives.
Stress is going to happen. You are going to go through tough times in life. You may get offended by something someone says. You may face a difficult decision that feels like a lose-lose situation. You can fear and resent these things, or you can choose to look at them as occasions to grow. You can view them as helpful moments to find out how resilient you can be. What you focus on matters. The choice is yours.
Vibrational Anchor For Stress
To conclude this article, I want to talk about an anchor for stress. I’ve talked about building vibrational anchors in a past video. It’s basically something that can help you shift your mood to a higher state.
Look to the Trees
If you are ever feeling stressed, consider trees. When they feel unstable, they put down roots. They get grounded. Find something in your life that helps you feel grounded. When they get beaten through storms, they get thicker skin. You can shift where your focus and attention go. You can focus on becoming resilient like the trees. So if you’re feeling stressed, consider looking to a tree and thinking, “If they can get through every single thing they get through (like windy days, dry spells, and torrential rain), I can get through this.”
When you appreciate how resilient we beings on earth are, your brain will start reminding you of all the places where you are resilient. You will be reminded of how strong and capable you truly are.
Notes from Before Happiness
- L. Cahill, L. Gorski, and K. Le, “Enhanced Human Memory Consolidation with Post-learning Stress: Interaction with Degree of Arousal at Encoding,” Learning and Memory 10, no. 4 (2003): 270-74.
- P. A. Hancock and J. L. Weaver, “On Time Distortion under Stress,” Theoretical Issues in Ergonomics Science 6, no. 2 (2005): 193-211.
- E. S. Epel, B. S. McEwen, and J. R. Ickovics, “Embodying Psychological Thriving: Physical Thriving in Response to Stress,” Journal of Social Issues 54, no. 2 (1998): 301-22.
- C. L. Park, L. H. Cohen, and R. L. Murch, “Assessment and Prediction of Stress-Related Growth.