Stress as a Teacher

“Stress should be a powerful driving force, not an obstacle.”

– Bill Phillips

I accepted a long time ago that it’s easier to try and get something out of my stress than it is to try and find any alleviation from it. It’s gotten better over time, but I still find myself milking it just to get something out of it. Otherwise, I’m exhausted for no reason, and the madness takes another round.

We are always hearing about the dangers of stress. According to the Jed Foundation, “Stress is usually a reaction to something we have control over or different aspects of our lives that we could potentially manage better.”

According to past research, stress can negatively impact someone on nearly every level and then some. However, there is some research to suggest the opposite. A 2013 study found that stress may be beneficial and may help protect against damage linked to aging and disease.

This same research also led to the following shocking findings:

• Stress enhances motivation
• Stress can enhance childhood development
• Stress can build resilience and encourage growth
• Stress can promote bonding
• Stress is part of a meaningful life

Upsides to the downsides.

And I thought I was special.

This is all in short bursts, of course. Chronic stress can be a killer.

According to Summa Health, “stress helps you meet your daily challenges and motivates you to reach your goals, ultimately making you a smarter, happier and healthier person.”

According to another study, stress takes its toll and can be dangerous, but it can also “bring unexpected benefits, too, in the form of personal growth.”

One must learn to delineate the difference between good stress and bad stress, though. Good stress, like the mania associated with the madness, should be used when at all possible. None of this is your fault, so be selfish and walk through the fire.

Bad stress wears you out and is harmful to your health. Bad stress can lead to anxiety, poor concentration, and decreased performance.

Tips to avoid or reduce bad stress include:
• Eliminate stress where you can
• Accept there are events you can’t control
• Think positive thoughts
• Get support
• Add relaxation techniques to your everyday routine
• Stay healthy and fit
• Get a good night’s rest

Drawing from academic work and research, doctors and scientists developed a three-step approach to positively responding to stress

Three-Step Approach to Handling Stress

• Step One: See It
• Step Two: Own It
• Step Three: Use It

In hindsight, this seems clear as day, but bad stress is often the perpetrator and can be hard to shake off sometimes. That’s the stress that will get you. So, I find it easiest to compartmentalize and use a combination of concepts to manipulate stress before it does the same to me.

Steps to Take Before Good Stress Goes Bad

• Recognize worry for what it is
• Then, reframe the stress
• Focus on what you can control
• Create a network of support
• Get some stress-handling experience

To be able to reframe stress to one’s advantage is a very satisfying and gratifying feeling. It’s not something just anyone can do. Being able to focus on only the things that you can control is a gift in and of itself. And it never hurts to have a little stress-handling experience.

Principles to Remember
• Think of stress as an indicator that you care about something, rather than a cause for panic
• Focus on the task, rather than the emotion
• Build relationships so that you have people to turn to in times of stress
• Assume your stress is going to last forever
• Worry about things that are out of your control
• Spend time with people who are negative

I have used stress to my advantage many times and figure that that’s the way it will be for the rest of time. At least for the foreseeable future. I accept both this being the case and the challenge involved. It’s a game, and one some people have to get really good at.

10 thoughts on “Stress as a Teacher

  1. I once had a long discussion about this with an employee of mine who was having a hard time doing her job. I called it ‘anxiety’ instead of stress, but it’s the same idea. I drew the relationship between anxiety and performance as a bell curve. Zero anxiety (desire to perform well) can lead to poor results, and excessive anxiety can lead to the same result. Somewhere in the middle is a sweet spot where an appropriate amount of anxiety over a task leads you to do your best job in completing that task. It’s nice to see this backed up by research. I was talking from the seat of my pants. LOL

  2. Great post, Josh! I love that you brought attention to how managing stress in a positive way can have benefits. It sounds counter-intuitive…but it totally makes sense. Thank you for sharing 🙂

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