Harnessing/shaping/using stress to your advantage
May 22, 2010 9:04 PM Subscribe
Stress. How do you balance/manage/harness it for your benefit?
posted by sharingideas to work & money (5 answers total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
Would love some additional perspective on the subject of stress.
Early in my career, I associated stress with "the cost you pay in order to get ahead in your profession." By investing many hours of hard work, late nights, challenging situations... you learn more, gain respect, and are offered opportunities you probably wouldn't get otherwise. Then, in my late 20's I became overwhelmed with the stresses of running a company, keeping my young marriage together (which ultimately failed), and I got burned out. After taking a year-long sabbatical to decompress and "find myself", I emerged with a much more healthy approach to life and work. I was better able to create boundaries and to sense internally when the stress of work projects encroached too much on my happiness, health, and personal relationships. OK, so that's all fine and dandy, but now I'm wondering if my pendulum has swung too far the other direction. Am I so afraid of over-committing, or going too deep on a work project and violating those "boundaries" that I'm actually missing out on the excitement/learning/outcomes of going deep on something? Rather than being co-dependent on work, am I now co-dependent on everything else and not allowing work and intellectual pursuits to reclaim their place in my mindspace that they would normally be? I'm a pretty geeky person and I've generally liked pursuing things deeply. Perhaps I'm not allowing myself to do that as much now, for fear of how consuming it may be? Or fear of failure?
Recently I've been reading "The Brain That Changes Itself" and it's amazing as it talks about how plastic our brains are, and that intense experiences can re-map/re-wire our brains even as we get older; our brains aren't formed at a young age and then remain static thereafter. The book uses examples of intense drills to rehabilitate stroke patients, but also discusses "acquired tastes" that form as we get older based on our experiences. I can see how major personal experiences can also have this re-wiring effect.
So, what I'm really looking for is a book/articles/advice on the subject of managing stress in a way that is a positive thing. How can you harness it and use it? Any hard problem is going to bring with it a certain amount of stress ("I can't figure this out! Arrrghh!!") But then it also has the amazing benefit of feeling the sense of accomplishment when a hard task is done, or a complex solution found. These moments of elation can release chemicals in our brain that actually cement a positive/fun experience with something challenging and hard. As an example, I recall times in college solving a complex math or computer problem and being super stoked and proclaiming my triumph over a particular problem/solution with audible jeers like "Take that you *#!&@ calculus problem! You are no match for me!!" Yes, very dorky I admit.
The other thing that may be going on here is that I could be associating "hard work and stressful times" with the failure of my marriage and the onset of several years of being lost/confused/scared. So, I could potentially use some coaching or reference materials in the general subject area of how to not be jaded or scared after a big failure. How to jump back in and keep pushing. Whatever anyone thinks might be helpful...would love to hear it.
I want to keep pushing the envelope, have an impact on the world and a full/dynamic/exciting life. Figuring out this fundamental/foundational layer of stress management, boundary setting, goal setting, etc would be great to figure out now so that it doesn't hamper or curtail my effectiveness/peace/life_happiness.
Thanks as always!