Redirect The Negative Energy of Stress to Positive Benefits

Prolonged stress and anxiety can have adverse effects on our mental health, work productivity and quality, relationships, physical health, and overall well-being.

Fortunately, research by the American Psychological Association has proven that we can use the energy of stress to improve our health and well-being. That’s right improve our well-being. Our mindset determines whether stress negatively or positively impacts our physical and mental health.  And we can change our mindset to have a positive effect.

The 3-steps to gaining a healthy mindset about stress are:

Step 1:  Acknowledge Your Stress.  Freeing the burden of stress starts by admitting that issues exist, at least to yourself. Denial compounds stress and its negative impacts. But thankfully, acceptance is an eye-opening process that helps us see things, and possible solutions, more clearly.

Acknowledge your stress by thinking or saying “I am stressed about ” such as “I am stressed about being able to balance my work and personal responsibilities” “I am stressed about achieving my work goals” or “I am stressed about teaching my child positive personal values.”

Acknowledging stress kicks off a transfer process in our brains, where we pause the emotional reaction to a situation so that we can choose a more productive response. Acknowledgment moves our stress from the emotion area of our brains to the prefrontal cortex, where we do our conscious and deliberate thinking.

Step 2:  Own Your Stress.  Stress indicates we care and that deep down, we know that the things that matter most should not be easy. Own your stress by recognizing that the choices we make, especially when we challenge ourselves, come with stress, like running a business, taking a high-stakes job, raising children, etc. Owning the fact we put ourselves in stressful situations will not eliminate it, but these tense situations will be more tolerable thanks to a sense of motivation and meaning.

Step 3:  Use Your Stress. Reframe your response to a situation from stress to something beneficial or even exciting. When we shift to a positive feeling of opportunity, not stress, we can think freely to define answers or solutions that will make the stressful situation better.  Outline the steps necessary to put these solutions into action – and take them!

Once you develop a positive mindset about stress, you will start to recognize that some of your most significant learning and development opportunities were during some of your most stressful times.

Work Stress

With your new view on stress, use it to redirect any job-related stress to become invaluable at work.

One little known, albeit growing, fact is that job happiness, and therefore success, is powered by our soft skill expertise, not our technical skills.

Research by Harvard University, the Carnegie Foundation, and Stanford Career Center found that soft skills contribute 85% to job success and happiness, so technical skills only represent 15%.

Developing strong working relationships has proven to reduce stress and anxiety while powering more creative ideation, sounder problem-solving, and powerful critical thinking. These skills lead to more favorable outcomes, which boost our mental health and well-being.

Soft skills are about behavior and thinking, personality traits, and cognitive skills, including people skills (relationship building, collaboration, empathy, humility, etc.), social skills, communication skills, character, attitudes, and emotional intelligence.

Every day that you interact with other human beings at work requires well-developed soft skills and is an opportunity to enhance your capabilities.

Given the breadth and variety of soft skills, it can be hard to know where to start.  But, when you think about how these human skills interrelate, you can classify them in a simple career success formula of:

We have further identified 6-foundational soft skills that power job success.

soft skills success

Foundational Soft Skills

Critical thinking is a mindset about thinking.  It starts by being open-minded and objectively considering why we believe what we believe. Critical thinkers assume they might be wrong so to free their mind and explore new possibilities, which lead to innovative, creative ideas.  Critical thinking is not about thinking more; it is about thinking better by not accepting data or information on face-value.

Problem-solving.  Problems are a gap between the desired outcome and an actual outcome.  Problem-solving capitalizes on the open-minded critical thinking mindset to analyze the cause & effect of problems successfully.  The most common mistake when problem-solving is assuming the first source identified of the problem is the ultimate cause.  Deeper thinking is typically needed to determine the actual root cause of a problem.

Humility is often misunderstood.  Humility is a positive, honest opinion about oneself, so it is inner strength.  We all have strengths and weaknesses.  Humble individuals know their limits and accept their shortcomings without being defensive or having self-judgment.  And because of this self-openness, they know what they can do and where they need help. Humility powers an ability to change our minds, and more importantly, recognizing when we should.  It is a powerful skill successful individuals want to possess.

Empathy is the skill that helps us understand what makes others “tick.”  Empathy starts with an understanding of someone’s personality, cultural norms, and social affiliations that drive their opinions and beliefs.  It helps us to understand how someone is feeling, even if we disagree with why they feel a certain way.  And it can power our ability to feel what someone else is feeling. But the pinnacle element of empathy is recognizing what others need from us and then fulfilling that need.

Communication. You can have all the brainpower in the world, but you have to be able to transmit it.  And the transmission is communication. ~ Warren Buffet.  Effective communication is not just about talking. It integrates presenting data-supported opinions and ideas, active listening, and verbal and non-verbal behaviors. Effective communication requires time to prepare an effective approach, is more about listening than talking, and includes a setting aside of oneself to build others’ self-esteem.

Collaboration is how work gets done today, or uber-teamwork.  No one is successful on their own in today’s knowledge work environment. Effective collaborators know how to influence others (thanks to strong empathy) and graciously asks for and accept help when needed (humility), which leads to individual and team success.

Harness the Positive Power of Stress

The next time you feel anxious stop and ask yourself:

  • Am I experiencing stress? If yes, acknowledge it.
  • What is the source of this stress? Identify what choices you have made, and therefore care about, that is creating this stress.
  • Reframe any negative feelings from stress to a benefit or exciting opportunity. Consider the source of the stress, why you care about it, and start developing opportunities the current situation offers.

Then enjoy the benefits of redirecting the energy of stress to positive action on your mental and physical health and well-being.  This redirecting approach will lead to personal and professional growth and development.

Curious about your knowledge of these 6-foundational soft skills?  Quiz yourself.

critical thinking problem-solving empathy humility communication collaboration

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