Make Your Stress Work for You
We all face times when seemingly negative feelings—stress, impatience, nervousness—affect our ability to perform at our best, or simply rob us of our peace. But what if we could turn this around? What if those same feelings could actually be positive, or at least wield less negative influence?
New research as reported by the Association for Psychological Science indicates that in a stressful situation, simply telling ourselves that our stress is good for us can change its effect on us. In experiments, people who were giving a speech (stressful for many people) were more confident and less anxious when they were instructed to focus on the value of stress in high-level performance. Others who were taking a stressful and high-stakes exam performed better when they were told that their nervous stomachs and pumping hearts were known to improve, not worsen, performance.
Simply telling ourselves that our stress is good for us can change our state of mind and our performance. I wonder how we could change our day-to-day experience by applying this in our lives. For example:
You’re impatient for results: Value your impatience. Acknowledge that it keeps you on your toes. Accept it as a normal part of your process, something to live with, not fight with. Maybe this way you can make peace with your impatience and not have it feel like a negative force.
You’re nervous meeting agents, editors, or other people you perceive as important: Tell yourself that your symptoms of nervousness are tools that will help you present yourself well and make a positive impression. Remind yourself, “Nervousness is good! It will help me perform at my best!”
You’re stressed about a presentation or public speaking event: Tell yourself that butterflies in your stomach and a racing heart are symptoms that are known to improve public speaking performance.
You’re anxious because you have so much to accomplish and so little time: Recognize your anxiety as exactly the stimulus you need to be as productive as possible, and embrace it as a motivator.
What do you think? Are these strategies worth a try? Do you think they’ll work?
P.S. I was alerted to this concept by a brief piece on the HBR blogs: “Handle Stress by Whispering Sweet Nothings to Yourself“