Burnout = Bad. Stress? Not necessarily.

Looming deadlines, incessant emails and endless social media comparisons spurring you to try harder, achieve more, do more... just your average Tuesday, right? We’re all operating at this kind of level on a daily basis, and it is, potentially, a problem. So much so, that the World Health Organisation has recently declared burnout an “occupational phenomenon.”

The culprit? Chronic stress. But, is that really the cause, or is it just how we react to it?

—Wait, stress can be a good thing?—Wait, stress can be a good thing?—Wait, stress can be a good thing?—

It’s widely acknowledged that stress is a Bad Thing, that should be avoided as much as possible - in pursuit of the evasive balance. But, according to Stanford’s Dr Kelly McGonigal, in reality;

“Stress is evolution's biological mechanism to help us engage with, and adapt to life. It can force you to clarify your values and priorities, and help you rise to a challenge. It is necessary for learning and growing, and it can often be a catalyst for strengthening and increasing social connections.”

Huh.

So, it’s not the tool’s fault, it’s how you use it?

Exactly. Put simply, stress is your body’s natural response when something you care about is at stake. And yes, it can make you feel overwhelmed and tense and all kinds of rubbish, but studies have found that a change in your mindset towards stress can help you to alter your mental, emotional and physiological responses to it. So, in understanding that your body’s stress responses (more on those here) are actually designed to help you in life, not hinder you - stress can be a positive thing.

3 ways to take full advantage of stress

1- Press reset

Next time you notice telltale stress signals like a faster heartbeat or a churning stomach, remind yourself that this is because something matters to you, and that the way you are feeling is a sign that your body is rising to the challenge.

2- Choose the right response

Knowing the different types of stress response is a useful tool to help you pick the right one for the job. Do you need to fight, freeze, face the challenge head-on or be brave and ask for help?

3- Show your appreciation

Be grateful for the people around you that contribute to your life in a positive way, and mean that you are able to take on the things that matter. Doing this regularly fosters your need to connect, help others and seek out people who might help you.