How to turn stress into an asset

Conventional self-help models suggest one can only find satisfaction in life if he or she can successfully get rid of negative thoughts and feelings, with many self-improvement efforts focused on cultivating strategies to alleviate stress. However, attempting to get rid of stress can actually make you more stressed, according to the Harvard Business Review.

Instead of worrying about relieving stress, research shows people can benefit from embracing it. Stress is useful in many ways. On the most basic level, it's a vital evolutionary response to danger, helping you think quicker and run faster. But stress can be helpful in other areas of life as well.

Here are three ways to use stress for self-improvement.

1. Decide how to view your stress. Research from Health Psychology shows one's perceptions of symptoms of stress can improve physical health, according to the Harvard Business Review. In the study, people who saw their symptoms of stress in a positive way exhibited the best health and longevity than any other group of participants. Viewing stress as a mechanism that prepares you for difficult situations, rather than one that holds you down, can be a tool.

2. Don't make stress your identity. When one identifies with an emotion, it becomes embedded in his or her definition of self. But if one remembers that stress is a bodily response to an adverse situation, the thought "I am stressed" can become "I'm in a situation that is making me feel temporarily stressed." By taking a step back and understanding that stress is a response, not a state of being, one can gain the perspective necessary to move forward.

3. Investigate the source of your stress. To truly "unhook" stress from one's identity, it's important to understand where stress comes from. Take some time to consider the reasons behind stress, the people who might be causing it and the qualities of the stressful experience.

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