Mind & Body

How to make stress work in your favour, according to a psychologist

Yes, stress can actually be a good thing. Here, psychologist Nancy Sokarno explains how to reap the benefits of stress.

For many people, stress can feel overwhelming, causing an immense amount of emotional strain that over time can actually rewire the brain, leaving a person more vulnerable to anxiety, depression, and other mental health problems.

Stress can also have a physical effect on a person, weakening the immune system and causing high blood pressure, or other health issues like fatigue and even heart disease. However, stress can also be a good thing.

When stress is controlled and dealt with positively, it can be a motivating force, boosting memory, helping a person to accomplish tasks more efficiently.

While most of us deem “stress” as a debilitating feeling that shakes us off our paths, there are ways you can take back control and utilise this ramped up energy for good.

How to make stress work in your favour, according to a psychologist

Pay close attention to it

With any kind of stress, it is important to be conscious of being present and being in control of your feelings. Try to get in tune with what is setting off your “fight or flight” response.

Pay close attention to your feelings and try to figure out what kind of event is triggering your stress – Meeting your Bf’s family or losing a loved one? Ask yourself whether it is it a perpetual trigger or a singular event? Where can you feel it physiologically?

Remember that you manage your emotions, not the other way around. Rather than letting stress take a hold of you, put yourself back in the driver’s seat and remind yourself that you are in control. Change it from a subconscious emotional response (amygdala) to a conscious response (prefrontal cortex).

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Change your perspective

Stress doesn’t have to be debilitating, it can be an opportunity to push you into doing something great. Shifting your perspective into a positive mindset will allow you to take on stress to your benefit.

Simple language shifts such as “I am too scared to…” to “I’m glad I get the opportunity to…” can make a huge difference. Many people tend to magnify the negative aspects of a stressful situation and filter out all of the positive ones, but it doesn’t have to be that way.

If you start to feel stress coming on, take a deep breath and remind yourself that you are likely feeling these feelings because what you’re doing is important. Use that energy to your advantage and flip the situation into a positive moment.

Channel it to your benefit

Many people don’t realise that we can actually utilise the adrenaline and dopamine high to centre focus and alertness on something important.

How well we get through a stressful situation depends a lot on us and the stressful feelings you have can act as a caution for the future.

Use the experience of getting through a stressful situation as positive future reference.

Channeling the feelings can make you more productive, motivated and efficient. Engage in creativity or intelligence as they both can work off the same arousal system as stress.

Take the time to re-set

Stress in high doses, often turns chronic which can have an array of negative impacts on your physical and mental health.

Take time to wind down effectively by implementing tactics that allow you to re-set such as breathing techniques or meditation.

Try to slow down and centre yourself, even if you feel like you don’t have time to do that. Taking a moment to re-group can sometimes allow you to look at stress in a different light and use it to your advantage.

Nancy Sokarno is a psychologist at Lysn. Lysn is a digital mental health company with world class wellbeing technology which helps people find their best-fit professional psychologist whilst being able to access online tools to improve their mental health.