If you would go around and ask every single person you know what stress is, I bet everybody will give you a more-or-less accurate answer. From palm-sweating and stomach ache, to endless sleepless nights, from the college student to the top-level executive, everybody has had some experience with it. While it’s usually viewed in a negative light, stress can in fact be good for you. Think of the people working out in gyms. Putting physical stress on your muscles makes your muscles adapt and grow to better handle this. Think of the employee rushing to finish the report due the next morning. Not all stress is negative. That being said, we can divide stress in Eustress (the good kind, the one that makes you do stuff and be productive) and Distress, the crippling shadow that follows you in every step you take. One of the things you DO NOT learn in school is how to cope with the stress. One way, is through grounding techniques, but this just an instant fix that does not treat the underlying condition. Everybody has to figure their own way. This article will try and help you with that.
The first step of coping with your stress is recognizing what type is it. Depending on the cause and the frequency with which you experience it there can be two major types Acute and Chronic. While chronic stress can cause serious harm to you, acute stress much more maneagble and easier to treat. Here we are going to discuss the possibly positive benefits of Acute stress
This is actually the one that can make you feel productive or thrilled. It comes from normal, day to day situations. Deadlines at work, that traffic jam, the fact that your neighbour cannot stop showing up unannounced at your doorstep. Symptoms include sweaty palms, stomach upset, anxiety, rise in adrenaline and increased heartbeat rate. It is the most common type experienced. The main characteristic of this type is that it’s bound to a situation, an event. The stress usually fades as the situation or perceived situation passes. While not being necessarily bad for you, learning how to manage it can help you a lot. Imagine you could harvest the positive benefits of it without feeling as much pressure. There are 3 ways people cope with this kind of stress:
- Cope with the stressful situation directly – Meaning you put in more work to resolve the situation. You actively try to resolve the problems or events. Let’s say you are stressed out about an outcome of a dinner you are supposed to have with clients tonight. To cope with this, you put in a little time and effort to check their LinkedIn profiles, re-check the info on their website. Rehearsing dialogues is not uncommon too. All of this is to help you get ready and thus feel less stressed out and more confident. While being seemingly helpful with with low or moderate amounts of pressure, once a certain threshold is achieved, it usually results in poorer results. The cause? The situation overwhelms you and you cannot cope anymore.
- Cope with the emotional component – People that use this strategy tend to try and relax before or during the acute stress phase. If we take the previous example with the dinner, using this strategy would mean going for a relaxing massage, having a hot bath or going for a yoga class. This relieves the physical symptoms and makes you calmer. By the time you are at the dinner table, you probably would’ve forgotten all about it. This technique is usually unfruitful if the situation is manageable or the stress levels are not that high. But once a high degree of stress is achieved, these people outperform the ones coping with the situational factors.
- Cope with both the situation and the emotional component – Combining the two strategies mentioned above seems to be the healthiest way of coping with your stress. People that both try and put in work in the stressful situation and at the same time deal with the emotions coming with it, tend to perform best under any amount of pressure.
The secret basically is recognizing at what point the work you put in stops helping you with the pressure and starts adding some more. If you realize that no amount of effort is going to help with the forthcoming event you are better off having a bubble bath. If you do however think that working on a problem will make it better then drop those plans and get working. Chances are you already are in the ‘zone’ and you will feel the relief the moment you start.