Stress is a common and inevitable part of school and work. It is often defined as the experience of anticipating or encountering adversity in one’s goal related efforts. Some people describe the experience of stress as debilitating, feeling they are powerless to take action. They may procrastinate or avoid preparing for or completing important tasks. Other people find that stress can be a helpful motivator, pushing them to achieve their goals and work harder towards success.
How does your stress mindset affect you?
A mindset is a particular mental lens through which you organise and encode information in the world around you. Mindsets influence how you understand information in the world around you. Mindsets influence how you understand certain experiences and guide your responses. Alia Crum and Peter Salovey (Yale University researchers) along with Shawn Achor (from organisation GoodThink) identify two mindsets that people often hold in relation to stress:
A stress is enhancing mindset: The belief that stress has enhancing (positive) consequences for work performance and productivity, health and wellbeing, learning and growth.
A stress is debilitating mindset: The belief that stress has debilitating (negative) consequences for work performance and productivity, health and wellbeing, learning and growth.
Crum, Salovey and Anchor conducted several studies, which found that a person’s attitude towards stress can dramatically influence how stress can dramatically influence how stress affects them. Participants watched three short videos over the course of a week depicting either the enhancing or debilitating effects of stress on health, performance, and learning/growth. Those in the ‘enhancing’ group experienced a positive shift in their stress mindset, viewing stress as a factor that improved their performance at work. These participants also reported an increase in work happiness and performance, and a decrease in health problems. In contrast, participants in the ‘debilitating’ group, and the control group (those who watched neither video), reported no improvements in work performance or psychological symptoms. this study suggests that the way you view stress can either be helpful or hinderyour work performance and wellbeing . It also suggests that people can be primed to adopt a more positive mindset towards stress.
The next time that you are faced with a difficult and stressful situation, take notice of which stress mindset you are adopting. A mindset that views stressful situations as opportunities to enhance your performance, wellbeing, or growth, may lead to positive outcomes for you. After all experiences that shape who we are, and result in personal growth, often involve high levels of stress.
To develop a more positive mindset towards stress, try this one simple strategy.
Achor suggests the following exercise to shift your mindset to be more positive. The next time thatyou are feeling overwhelmed, make a list of stresses in your life. Place them into two groups – those that you can control (e.g. projects) and those that you cannot control (e.g. someone else’s behaviour). Choose one stress that you can control and come up with a small concrete step that you can take to reduce it.