When we think of stress, we usually think of it as a negative experience. But stress can also be positive.
Let’s first look at a definition of stress: In a medical or biological context stress is a physical, mental, or emotional factor that causes bodily or mental tension. Stresses can be external (from the environment, psychological, or social situations) or internal (illness, or from a medical procedure).
There are 3 types of stress:
- Acute stress: this is a sudden surprise that requires a quick response. Typically, this is when we get the flight or fight adrenalin rush and our bodies react physically with increased pulse rate and/or blood pressure, rapid breathing and a release of adrenalin in our system.
Providing we can deal with the issue and return to normal, then there shouldn’t be lasting damage.
- Chronic stress: this is when we face stressors repeatedly and for a long term e.g. a stressful job or unhappy home life. This ongoing stress is very bad for our health and well being as there is no “flight or fight” so the adrenalin builds up in our system putting our organs under strain. It is important to get to the cause of the stress and make changes to help deal with the situation
- Eustress: This is a good stress that we experience when we get excited. e.g. roller coaster ride, a job promotion, falling in love. There is no threat or fear.
There is a link between stress and productivity. In the recent Inspired Leadership Virtual Connect session that I facilitated, I shared a personal story of how we had planned to canoe down the Zambezi river at Mana Pool in Zimbabwe. As we launched our canoes, we were chased by an elephant, while a bloat (group) of hippos watched from the water next to where we were launching, and crocodiles looked up lazily from the sand bank. Well, I certainly felt the stress and the adrenalin was pumping. Once we got into the canoes we rowed like experts at peak productivity. This was an amazing experience and taught me about the link between stress and productivity.
As the graph shows, if we have too little stress and low energy, we may be apathetic and unproductive. Stress can help us to meet deadlines and be more productive. We just need to be aware that if the stress level gets too high, or maintains for a longer period, this can lead to exhaustion, health problems and potentially even burn-out.
But can we change negative stress to positive stress? This is not always possible, but we can work to introduce Eustress into our lives by exercising regularly, keeping a balanced life and having a positive attitude towards stressful situations that we face.
Some steps I find helpful are:
- Focus on the resources you have to meet the challenge
- See the potential benefits of a situation
- Remind yourself of your strengths
- Have a positive mindset
- Increase your support from others
Victor E. Frankl in Man’s Search for Meaning says: “Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: The last of the human freedoms – to choose one’s attitude to any given set of circumstances”.
For more inspiring sessions check our events page: www.inspiredleadership.world/events . You can also contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or www.phoenixempowering.co.za to discuss how my Coaching can help you as a you deal with stress in your life, and aim to find a balance.