“The greatest weapon against stress is our ability to choose one thought over another.” – William James.
Bill Russell may have been a star center for the Boston Celtics, but you might be amazed to know that all 13 of the seasons he played, he felt so nervous he threw up before the games.
No matter how great a performer one is, there are always butterflies in the stomach in a stressful situation. At one point or another in our lives, we have all felt this sensation.
The Science of Stress
Stress is an adaptive response that prepares our body for a dangerous or threatening situation.
Consider a dog chasing you. You have got two responses: you either fight it or run. Racing heartbeat, sweaty palms and wide eyes will be some of your body’s responses to this situation. All of these changes will allow you to run faster, think better and see clearer.
In the olden times, this used to be a pretty useful tool. Our ancestors had to be wary of their surroundings and the threats that lied ahead of them. In fact, stress has been bestowed to us as an evolutionary tool—a mechanism that helps us deal with emergency situations.
Benefits of Stress
Despite its negative connotations, there is no doubt about the fact that stress is functional for us human beings. Here are some amazing benefits of stress:
Stress Can Make Your Memory Sharper
The right amount of stress can improve memory functions. According to an article published in Huffington Post, stress can help your brain release hormones that increase alertness. At the time of an exam, you might experience increased focus under stress and might recall answers seemingly out of nowhere.
However, when stress levels have elevated for a longer period of time, it might also lead people to have a memory black out.
Stress Enhances Your Immune System
Stress can be an incredible thing for your body’s immune system. When you get ill, a certain amount of stress helps your body release hormones that fight infections and diseases. When you get sick, these hormones kick in and help your body get prepared.
Again, it should be remembered that an excess level of stress can have the opposite effect. If you feel that stress is getting overwhelming, you should implement some stress management strategies to keep it under check.
Stress Might Be Linked With Longevity
Scientists have found evidence to believe that stress might be associated with a long life. In a study carried out by researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, it was found that participants who reported higher levels of stress and who said that stress negatively impacted their health had a 43 percent increased risk of mortality.
More interestingly, participants who experienced stress levels but did not perceive them as having negative influence on their lives were the least likely to die among all the participants in the study.
Stress Can Enhance Brain’s Learning Centers
Psychologists have found that moderate levels of stress can produce brain cell growth. To test this, a study on rats was carried out by the researchers at the University of California, Berkeley. The two groups of rats were either immobilized or left unchanged. The rats were then subjected to a fear-conditioning test, which measured their freezing or avoidance responses.
The rats showed an enhanced level of stress hormone called corticosterone and with that, an increased growth of neural stem cells, the learning center of the brain.
Tips to Use Stress to Your Advantage
As mentioned above, stress can be a powerful force that can help you live your life better. Here are some tips to help you take full advantage of this vastly complex emotion:
Have a Positive Attitude
People who generally have a positive perception of stress tend to have better physical health and enhanced longevity.
Thinking positively about stress makes you take challenges with a pumped-up mindset. This is the reason it makes sense to view challenging situation as learning opportunities. People who do that are more likely to thrive in them.
Know Your Stress
When you are stressed out, it is always a good idea to learn more about it. From your weaknesses that might be causing it to the people involved, study the situation thoroughly.
This will help you recognize patterns in stress responses and deal better with it. Once you know your stress, you will be in-charge of the situation.
Step Back and Get Some Perspective
Sometimes, we need to view things from a new perspective and stress can make us realize that. When you are excessively stressed out, step back from the situation. For instance, you know that your job is causing stress and anxiety in your life. In this case, it would be a good idea to take a break and change your surroundings.
Stepping out of the situation will give you great insights about yourself and help you decide the future course of action.
Learn to Let Go of Certain Things
At some point in our lives, we have all got to accept the fact that no matter how hard we try, we are not in control of life’s random events.
You need to learn to let some things go. Stress can make you realize this. Once you take a break from life’s stressors, you will come back stronger and better.
Use Stress to Negotiate Better
According to Men’s Fitness, it has been found that people who enjoy negotiating did better even when they were wired to have increased heart rates.
This shows that the simple act of being enthusiastic about negotiation helped participants actually negotiate better than the other groups in the study.
Have you ever felt the excitement of facing a challenge? Consciously choosing to face a stressful situation and overcoming it can make life quite interesting.
Asking someone out, speaking in public and meeting strangers are some of the stressors that you might want to overcome. Challenging yourself by being in these situations can help you feel more happy and fulfilled.
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