We’re all familiar with the experience of stress although most people don’t know the clinical definition of stress. We just know we should avoid it as much as possible in our daily lives. And why wouldn’t we? Stress is rarely, if ever, pleasant.
But new research shows that might not be the case. In fact, feeling stress could be a net positive, at least in circumstances that revolve around gaining new experiences, learning new skills, and confronting new situations.
What is Stress?
Stress is characterized as a negative response to pressure, threats to your well-being, and the anticipation that something bad is going to happen. It’s often triggered by hardships related to your finances, relationships, and job, among numerous other things. Research has shown that stress has long-term effects on the brain and is increasing in the general population as a result of current events.
With rising social tensions, political unrest, and the psychological effects of the pandemic’s quarantine, many of us feel we’ve been experiencing more than our fair shares of stress in spite of our attempts to avoid it and the things that cause it.
When we can’t avoid some stresses—like those tied to our jobs or families—we have to learn other techniques to cope or get around it. On the other hand, good things can be stressful too, at least in the short term. Learning new skills and gathering new experiences can be stressful. But if we avoid those stresses by never trying new things, then we miss out on many of the things life has to offer.
A Time to Embrace Stress
New research shows that embracing stress while in the process of learning something new has more positive effects than negative ones.
When a new experience, like learning a new skill, brings us stress, we embrace it as part of the learning process and part of our overall development. This stress is inevitable, but that’s okay because it will pass in time. Stress is part of the learning process and recognizing that fact puts us in a better frame of mind to overcome it.
This reframing process transforms stress from something we avoid at all costs to a feeling we know is coming albeit only temporarily. In these situations, the thing to remember is that “this too shall pass” so long as we keep working hard. As long as we keep at it, we can (and will) overcome our feelings to achieve a healthier, calmer frame of mind.
With this reframing in mind, we give ourselves the motivation to push through and continue. This motivation makes it easier to cope with the stress as it comes. In short, we’re challenged to face our discomfort, anxiety, and stress head-on, and the positive emotions resulting from conquering that stress are good for us in the long run.
This set of studies reveals that people who addressed their stress in a new situation and overcame it become more motivated, engaged, persistent, and open to both new information as well as constructive or even difficult feedback. By reframing their stress, participants in the study started to view it as an opportunity and a sign they were making progress.
How Reframing Helps
When we embrace discomfort and stress in small tasks, our brains become better able to understand and overcome that stress when we face larger, longer-term chronic stress. Given time, we do it automatically.
The study we referenced above showed that the 2100+ participants began reframing their stress and discomfort as a positive opportunity, even in more severe situations and when the instructors hadn’t prompted them to try.
From a brief set of studies, participants changed the way they think about their daily lives and new experiences as they came up. This experience helps encourage them to try new things that might be stressful in the short term if it changes the way they think.
This is a long-term change in mindset for the participants. They better recognize delayed gratification and how some difficulties now can pay off someday—a healthier outlook that helps us invest in our futures rather than stay in the moment.
When we look back after reframing stress during a difficult time, we may experience a sense of pride in the face of our resilience, motivation, and hard work to get where we are now. Sure, a life free from stress sounds wonderful, but there will always be stressors to come along and give us trouble. We get the same results—a life unaffected by stress—if we find better ways to combat it as it comes rather than avoiding it entirely.
Are you ready to embrace the right kind of stress? At Silicon Beach Sober Living, our luxury sober living homes in Los Angeles give clients opportunities to master their newfound sobriety while making connections with peers.
For more information, call Silicon Beach Sober Living today.