“Who then is invincible? The one who cannot be upset by anything outside their reasoned choice” Epictetus
Psychologists define stress as a form of psychological (mental) and/or physiological (physical) arousal that drives behavior. There are two different reactions to stressors:
The stress we experience when we are challenged. It is motivation to accomplish something specific. Eustress helps us focus and complete important tasks. For example, the eustress reaction from the stressor of an assignment at school might be ‘I have a great idea for this project, it will be difficult but I am up for the challenge’
We experience this stress when we feel overwhelmed and out of control. Generally distress provides no positive benefits. It inhibits performance and causes negative emotions like anxiety. For example, the distress reaction from the stressor of an assignment at school might be ‘I have way too much to do, this project will never get done, I can’t handle this’
The best way to deal with a stressful situation is to have control over it by converting reactive distress into plan-of-attack eustress. Here are some steps on how:
- Close your eyes, take a deep breath and let it out slowly. You cannot accomplish anything while panicking so take a moment to center yourself.
- Ask yourself what is the first step in tackling the problem at hand. At this point don’t think about how big the problem is or the end result, just focus on the first step. If you are stressed about a looming deadline, the first step might be making a to-do list in order of importance for the project or cleaning off your workspace.
- Take action. Complete that first step and the rest will follow.
- Once the situation is passed, ask yourself what you can do to avoid the same situation in the future (if applicable). Should you start earlier on assignments? Or create and stick to a strict budget? Learn from mistakes and avoid stress in the future.
By taking the time to create solutions to our problems we turn distress into eustress. There may be certain problems in our lives that we don’t have very much control over, such as the health of a loved one or falling victim to a crime. In these particular cases we can still attack the stress by choosing a positive emotional response, even if a tangible solution does not exist.
Next time you feel stressed out, remember you have the tools to convert that stress into something productive. Look at every challenging situation you face as something you can overcome. By doing so, you will be able to turn stress into accomplishment.
Rogelio H. Charles