How to Leverage Stress
In this research-packed TED article, Kelly McGonigall writes about our hormonal responses to stress. Essentially, coping well with stress depends on viewing stressful moments as opportunities to grow; this view releases more Dehydroepiandrosterone or DHEA, a neurosteroid that helps your brain grow stronger from challenging experiences. This results in stress inoculation, or growth in your resilience in response to stress.
“Other studies confirm that viewing a stressful situation as an opportunity to improve your skills, knowledge or strengths makes it more likely that you will experience stress inoculation or stress-related growth. Once you appreciate that going through stress makes you better at it, it gets easier to face each new challenge. And the expectation of growth sends a signal to your brain and body: get ready to learn something, because you can handle this.
People who are good at stress allow themselves to be changed by the experience of stress. Embracing our natural capacity for growth can help us change in positive ways, even in circumstances we would never choose.”
Importantly, increasing our neuroplasticity, or the brain’s ability to change its structure and/or function in a sustained way, helps us deal with our emotions as we face stress. Other strategies can be leveraged to increase your confidence in times of stress. These include taking charge but not sweating the small stuff, being flexible, learning from mistakes (especially, not repeating them), setting specific goals and achieving them, knowing and using the activities that can help you cope with stress (e.g. yoga or meditation), and setting your own standards for self-acceptance instead of looking to others for approval.