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Getting Good At Battling Stress

Does getting good at it mean you completely ignore it and pretend everything is good? Does it mean that you just somehow gain the power to never be stressed out at all?

There is more to pretending to ignore all situations that may cause you stress. The sad but true reality is that you can’t really avoid stress, but here are some things you will want to know.

Instead, we need to start thinking about how to have the courage to grow from stress. This view of resilience was first described by the psychologist Salvatore Maddi, who founded the Hardiness Research Lab at the University of California Irvine.

He dedicated his career to identifying what distinguishes people who thrive under stress from those who are defeated by it. The ones who thrive, he concluded, are those who view stress as inevitable, and rather than try to avoid it, they look for ways to engage with it, adapt to it, and learn from it.

The idea that we grow through adversity is not new. It’s present in the teachings of every major religion and many philosophies. It’s even become a cliché to say, “Whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.”

But what is new is how psychology and neuroscience have begun to examine this truism. Research is beginning to reveal not only why stress helps us learn and grow, but also what makes some people more likely to experience these benefits.

One of the more recent insights from this science is that the ability to learn from stress is built into the basic biology of the stress response. Of course, you know that the stress response gives you energy by flooding your body with adrenaline. But the stress response doesn’t end when your heart stops pounding. Other stress hormones are released to help you recover from the challenge.

One strategy is to choose a more positive mindset toward stress. Make a conscious choice when you’re stressed to view stress as helpful, and the experience as an opportunity to learn and grow.

This mindset can actually shift your stress physiology toward a state that makes such a positive outcome more likely, for example by increasing your growth index and reducing harmful side effects of stress such as inflammation.

Other studies confirm that viewing a stressful situation as an opportunity to improve your skills, knowledge or strengths makes it more likely that you will experience stress inoculation or stress-related growth. Once you appreciate that going through stress makes you better at it, it gets easier to face each new challenge.

And the expectation of growth sends a signal to your brain and body: get ready to learn something, because you can handle this.

People who are good at stress allow themselves to be changed by the experience of stress. Embracing our natural capacity for growth can help us change in positive ways, even in circumstances we would never choose.

Source: How To Be Good At Stress, TED | Photo credit:

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