How to Make Stress Work to Your Advantage

Stress gets a bad reputation.  

It’s often thought of as some sort of unpleasant and unwelcome feeling we will do anything to avoid. But what if I told you, you could actually use stress to your advantage?

No matter what your career path is, stress isn’t going away. And trying to get rid of it may, in fact, make you even more stressed. It comes down to accepting that tension will be there and learning how to leverage it. This will enable you to step further into a place of success, as opposed to hindering you. 

Once you understand this, you can actually begin to use it to propel you forward, not hold you back. Here are three ways I have used stress to my advantage in life. 

1. Leverage stressful deadlines to accomplish more.

I recently read David Goggins’s book, Can’t Hurt Me, and it got me thinking about our capacity for potential. 

External sources generally do bring out the best in us. We are more motivated to do things when other people or sources are included in the outcome. When you hold yourself accountable to a deadline that impacts others, the stress of meeting the goal actually helps you achieve it.

When you set deadlines that impact others, you will find yourself more likely to complete them. Leverage the boundaries that a deadline sets and use the promises you make to others as tools to channel your stress into positive action, not paralyzing doubt.

2. Let stress help you build resilience.

Stress can help build up a sense of resilience when things become difficult. As humans, we are wired to adapt to our surroundings. If you are attempting to live solely in a state of peace, it can be harmful when a stressful situation does arise. Your capacity to handle difficulty won’t be as robust as someone who experiences small amounts of stress regularly.

Put yourself in situations that push you and give you a sense of stress within an environment where it is safe to fail. This way when things really do matter, you already have experience operating in a state of stress to make sound decisions. Building this resilience and exposure to stress doesn’t have to be a negative thing. 

A while back I went out of my comfort zone and did my first stand up comedy show. This was stressful but also one of the most exciting and powerful experiences I have had. Since then, I have used that stressful moment as a learning experience and reminder that I can do well under pressure. It has given me reassurance and confidence when I step up on stage now.

3. See stress as an opportunity to find blind spots.

Ask yourself, what about this situation is creating stress for me?  

The answer that lies within this question will be able to help you uncover blocks and triggers that are hindering you. Understand the root cause of the stress and actually lean into the trigger. This is where self-awareness is born and where you can turn a stressful moment into a learning opportunity.

When I first started thinking about building an e-commerce business, I felt a great deal of stress. I asked this simple question and quickly came to the realization my stress was rooted in how much information I needed to learn about online selling. This stress revealed my blind spot. In turn, I channeled my energy into devouring books and courses on this very topic. Thanks to this stress I ultimately turned a blind spot into one of my biggest assets today. 

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.

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