There’s so much to be said for surviving last year, and if you’ve been turning to Netflix and sweatpants you’re not alone and we understand. But if you find you’re in a place to grow, we’ve got just what you need to move into this year with a clean slate and go from surviving to thriving.
The great news is you don’t have to reset your stress levels to zero for this to work (we all know that isn’t happening). You just need to learn how to see your stress in a whole different light.
Reframe your stress
When you hear the word stress you usually immediately think of something negative, right? That doesn’t have to be the case. Since living a stress-free life is never going to happen, taking a healthier approach to your stress will greatly improve your quality of life.
“Stress isn’t the boogeyman it’s made out to be,” says Stefan Underwood, vice president of methodology and staff development at EXOS. “Stress is neither good, nor bad. It’s simply a signal that our body responds to. Part of that response is managed through our autonomic nervous system, which has two sides to it: the sympathetic and the parasympathetic.”
These systems you probably know as “fight, flight, or freeze” for the sympathetic, and “rest and digest” for the parasympathetic. But there’s a lot more to the science of what happens to your body and mind when you get stress signals. Learn more about the science of stress.
Accept the chance for growth
If you’re looking for strategies to control your own stress response, Underwood recommends applying Carol Dweck’s work on growth mindsets. The gist is believing you can grow and change by seeing stressful situations as an opportunity to adapt and learn. And your body is ready and willing to help you do this.
“Within a sympathetic response, when you choose flight or freeze, you receive a surge of adrenaline — a chemical that drives focus to increase our chances of survival,” says Underwood. "But when we shine that stress through a growth mindset lens, and choose to lean in to the stress, welcoming it as an opportunity to grow, and chose to stand tall and fight, your brain still gets the adrenaline to focus, but it also gets dopamine, a reward chemical, and helps push back on the adrenaline, finding a balance that helps us achieve an optimal state of mind.”
This is just one of the ways your mindset can help you grow. Check out more ways to build a resilient mindset.
Managing your stress response
Ready to put your growth mindset into practice? Like with anything else, the more you use it the better you’ll get at employing this technique to manage your stress response and affect your state of mind. Here are some tips from Underwood about improving your stress response:
- First, spend some time before you’re stressed to intentionally think about your values and find a solid source of motivation to keep you going through tough times.
- Second, be aware of where you’re starting. Try some mindfulness meditation to recognize and be aware when your state of mind shifts due to stress so you can choose your response.
- Third, work on downregulating when you have time to relax by tapping into your parasympathetic system. Try these breathing exercises to start. Or practice upregulating before a big meeting or a tough workout to benefit from your sympathetic nervous system.
Ready for more practical tips? Get ideas about avoiding burnout and prioritizing self-care.
About the AuthorMore Content by Kelsey Webb