Worried that the stress of caregiving is getting the best of you? A mindset shift has been proven to help, no matter the stress, because sometimes we can’t stop the stress.
This one is a game changer! It is is the most exciting news I’ve heard in years. I want to shout it from the rooftops and make sure you and everyone you know hears this news.
Are you ready? STRESS IS GOOD FOR YOU! Yep, you heard me right. Stress makes you strong, focused, smarter and compassionate.
Repeat after me – Stress is helpful and should be accepted, utilized, and embraced.
Mindset Shift for Stress: It’s Easy as 1-2-3
Kelly McGonigal, a health psychologist and author of the Upside of Stress, devotes a TED talk to deconstructing why stress is your friend. She outlines the study that made her change her mind about thinking (and lecturing) that stress is toxic. She spreads the good news that stress can be beneficial. A study of 30,000 US adults were asked if they believe stress is harmful to their health. The surprising findings are that those that do not believe stress is harmful are the least likely to die in the eight years follow up. Sadly, those that believed stress is harmful to their health increased their risk of dying by 43%.
Mindset shift for stress makes us stronger and smarter!
McGonigal describes research revealing physiologic changes in our bodies triggered by stress help us manage what is coming our way – the increased heart rate and mental attention prepare us to handle the challenge. We are stronger and smarter! The shift in the chemicals in our brain enhance our courage and our compassion. So – shift the thought these physiologic changes are going to harm you to they are there to excite and prepare you. The toxic effects of stress slip away and the empowering aspects of stress are enhanced.
So, it is as simple as a mindset shift.
How do we handle the stress with this self-care? As I said before, easy as 1, 2, 3.
- First reflect on times you noticed that stress has been helpful to you. I know that when I needed to transport my mother from a hospital in the Midwest to come to begin her life with me in Connecticut, that plane ride was one of the most stressful days of my life. But, in retrospect, my focus was crystal clear, I stepped out of my comfort zone to garner help from staff, my attention and compassion for my mother was heightened. I see that the stress brought out the best in me. I did have a racing heart at times. My palms were sweaty. But, I had extra energy, extra creativity, extra power!
This step is to acknowledge stress when you experience it as I did in the above example.
Connect with stress
- The second step is to recognize that the stress is a response to something you care about. In the example above, I cared that my mother come to Connecticut and that her trip be as painless as possible. I was worried because she was being discharged from the hospital to a full day of travel after a recent stroke.
Connect the stress to your positive motivation behind the stress – in my case, comfort for my mother. What is at stake? Why does it matter?
- The third step is to make use of the energy the stress awakens rather than let it be used up trying to ‘manage’ or ‘suppress’ the stress. What actions will help use that energy to move your motivation (realized in step 2) forward? In my example, at the time, rarely asked anyone for help. But, when my motivation was to make the trip as comfortable for my mother as possible, I expanded out of my comfort zone and asked several people for something extra for her.
Use the energy of the stress for good. When we think of stress as toxic, we try to breathe it away, exercise it away, numb it away (alcohol, spending, binge watching TV, eating). This new process uses that energy to align your actions with your values – a much healthier use of energy.
Stress, in my mind, has been turned on its head. I will no longer recommend that people avoid stress when we know that life can be stressful. We cannot avoid stress – it comes at us, sometimes in small ripples, sometimes as a tsunami. It is useless for me to counsel to “Avoid stress’. And now I know it is also harmful. My new advice is to HARNESS the AWESOME POWER OF STRESS. Become your own superhero!
And…., for tips on how to help you as the helper, sign up here.