When Stress Is Good For You

My work as an IT manager sometimes means stress; lots of stress… and that Thursday afternoon things were going so bad that I had to make a decision:

  1. Avoid stress — quit my job and go live in peace.
  2. Embrace stress — learn to live with stress and find out how how to take advantage of it.

Unfortunately my wife ruled out the first choice, so I had no alternative but taking the second one… so I called my good mentor Mike.

Mike showed me the Yerkes-Dodson curve:

YerkesDodson-blue-creativecommons

You see my friend, up to a point stress is good for you; it enhances your performance, alertness and creativity.

But when you are pushing yourself too much and you are entering the fatigue zone your performance is actually going down and you are getting exhausted.

– That’s my case Mike; I’m burned out! But what can I do? My job is demanding and I have no other choice but working under lots of stress!

The key is to shift your C’ zone to the right — that means you have to become more stress resilient.

That sounds great; but how I can do that?

It’s not just about how much stress you are putting yourself through; it’s about how you recover from stressful situations.

Stress resilience is similar to physical resilience

When you are training your body for strength, your aim is to fatigue and break the muscle, causing small micro tears in the fibre. After a day or two of rest your body repairs the tears and emerges stronger, having adapted to that increased workload.

The key to this process is that muscle adaptation, growth and repair takes place when you are recovering from exercise; not during it!

The key to stress resilience is allowing for recovery after exposed to excess stress!

But I do that on a daily basis; I rest and relax every day after work in front of TV.

Recovering from a hard day’s work by sitting in front of TV is like being an athlete who eats junk food after his hard work out – you’re shooting yourself in the foot!

In the case of physical stress (like running a marathon), is about resting, eating and maybe getting a nice massage.
For mental and emotional stress the top three methods to recover and become more resilient are:

Exercise — in almost any form it can act as a stress reliever. Being active is boosting your feel-good endorphins and distracts you from daily worries.

Meditation — wipes away the day’s stress, bringing you inner peace.
You can practice meditation wherever you are — whether you’re out for a walk, riding the bus, waiting at the doctor’s office or even in the middle of a difficult business meeting.

Social support — Surround yourself with at least a few good friends and confidants; when you choose to connect with others under stress, you are creating resilience.

I decided to go for all three of them… But you know something? The better part was that…

Choosing to view stress as something helpful and not as an enemy transformed my exhaustion into courage!