I was speaking with one of my beloved clients this week during our normal weekly check-in. He has made huge strides in consistently making better food choices and is already seeing and feeling the results. By planning ahead, being mindful, and having a powerful vision of his big goals he is really off to an amazing start!
Of course, when things are going your way and you’re seeing results, motivation is high, and life is good. We started to talk about the events of the week and I learned that despite his dedication and positive attitude, it had been a very stressful week.
It got me wondering how differently we are able to handle life’s stressors when we are feeding ourselves healthy foods, positive thoughts and surrounding ourselves with support.
There are always challenges – real or imagined – that crop up and keep us stuck. My role is to figure out what those blocks are and help support my clients through the process of removing them.
Here are a few ways you can reframe stress and use it to your advantage, instead of letting it control you.
1. Reframe “anxious” and “nervous” as “excited”.
Often times the butterflies come when we are projecting what might go wrong instead of just taking the moments as they come. Instead of that unproductive approach, visualize yourself being successful. Imagine yourself on the receiving end of a glowing performance review, or a standing ovation at the end of your presentation, or handling a difficult conversation with diplomacy and empathy. Imagine yourself finishing your first 5k or zip lining without fear. Go on and get excited about it!
Remind yourself that the sensations you’re feeling are just your body’s special way of preparing you to do your best. Feel excitement about getting to do this scary thing. Feel proud that you have the courage to do hard things.
2. Reframe being “frazzled” as feeling “energized.”
You just got into an argument with your significant other. You just have too much to do you don’t know if you’re coming or going. You’re agitated. You have this pent-up energy that needs a place to go right now. Instead of munching on a bag of chips, direct this energy towards doing something physical. Take a kickboxing class (or find one on YouTube), go for a run outside, or turn the music on and shadow-box in your living room.
3. Reframe “trying times” as “feats of greatness.”
Long-term, chronic stress can be debilitating and seriously harm your health if not managed appropriately. Every single one of us will face difficult, longer-term situations at some point in our lives that will feel like climbing uphill with the wind pushing against us full-force. What if we stopped thinking of these taxing times as threats that may defeat us and instead adopt the attitude of a warrior? The battle is you against your circumstance and you know you will muster the strength and get the help you need to overcome this period of time. Each battle scar you acquire will only make you stronger and grow you to your ultimate potential. If you can get through this, you can get through anything and things that were hard before will seem like a breeze.
4. Reframe “all stress is bad” to “some stress is necessary.”
You can never eliminate all stress, nor do you really want to do that in the first place. When you’re not stimulated enough you can easily become bored, frustrated, and tired. Imagine a super bright kid at school who is bored with the curriculum because it isn’t challenging enough. “A challenged muscle does not grow” can be applied just as easily to your brain as it can to your biceps. If you’re using the same weights every time you work out (as many do who take the same body pump class for years) you aren’t creating enough of a stimulus for growth to occur.
Similarly, overstimulation can have a negative impact. When your body is too aroused by stress you can feel unable to focus, panicked, and suffer from poor performance.
There is an optimal amount of arousal for peak performance.
This sweet spot occurs when you experience the optimal amount of arousal that creates your highest quality of performance. (This is known as the Yerkes-Dodson Curve if you want to look that up here).
You’ll know when you’re in your zone when you feel energized, focused and able to sustain a high level of productivity and performance.
This level will be different for each person, depending on the task they are trying to perform, their skill level, ability, and confidence.
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