Stress Helps You Understand What Matters to You Most


Kristin Wong

September 8, 2015

We spend a lot of time and effort trying to overcome stress. In doing this, it’s helpful to acknowledge your stress in the first place. Acknowledging it can help you understand what’s most important to you, too.

We’ve told you before that stress isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It can actually be good for you. As Stanford psychologist and researcher Kelly McGonigal says in her TED talk on stress:

How you think and how you act can transform your experience of stress. When you choose to view your stress response as helpful, you create the biology of courage. And when you choose to connect with others under stress, you can create resilience.

Really, overcoming stress is about learning to control it, not just make it go away. Research supports this. In an article at Harvard Business Review, Stanford’s Alia Crum and author Thomas Crum discuss a study they conducted in which people who viewed stress as “enhancing” had a better cortisol response to it and were more willing to ask for feedback. Here’s what they recommend doing to take control of your stress:

The key to “owning” your stress is to recognize that we tend to stress more, and more intensely, about things that matter to us. Stress shows us that we care; that the stakes matter. Owning this realization unleashes positive motivation—because deep down we know that things that are important shouldn’t always come easy.

This is helpful when it comes to creating long-term goals and deciding where to focus your energy. Of course, not every stressor is going to be important; sometimes you get mildly stressed over having to wait at a red light. But if you find that you’re frequently highly stressed about your family, for example, you might conclude that having a healthy relationship with them is important to you.

That gives you a better understanding of where to focus your effort and priorities. It also helps turn the stress into something more productive: a goal.

Crum and Crum offer additional actionable advice for harnessing the power of stress in the original article, linked below.

Stress Can Be a Good Thing If You Know How to Use It | HBR

Photo by Shivmirthyu.


This article was written by Kristin Wong from Lifehacker and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.

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