How To Develop A Stress Enhancing Mindset

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Developing a stress enhancing mindset can be a quick and easy way to start learning how to use stress to your advantage.

What’s that you say?

According to Dr Alia Crum – a professor of Psychology at Stanford University; this is a mindset in which we perceive stress as something that enhances performance, versus something that debilitates performance.

For years, society and the media have conditioned us to believe that stress is negative and something we should avoid in pursuit of good health; but this isn’t necessarily true.

At it’s most basic level, a stress response (i.e. feeling stressed) is used to generate movement in all living creatures.

Sometimes this movement helps us avoid negative experiences like death or injury in order to survive. However, we need this same stress response and movement to overcome adversity and achieve challenging goals that fill our lives with more meaning and purpose.

That’s why adopting a stress enhancing mindset is so important.

It allows us to seek discomfort and make choices that fuel personal growth within experiences that others are too afraid or too uncomfortable to approach.

How to build a stress enhancing mindset?

From Dr. Crum’s research, there are three basic steps involved in cultivating a stress-enhancing mindset:

Step 1: Label It.

Feeling stressed is uncomfortable and many of us are not used to embracing this feeling.

Remember we’ve been conditioned by millions of articles, videos and data points that engrained a negative belief about stress in our minds. As a result, we’ve spent most of our lives actioning behaviors that numb, avoid and deny what stress feels like.

In doing so, we’ve spent too much time in our comfort zone = the low stress, low growth zone.

It’s only when we can label stress – see it and feel it – when we can learn to work with it rather than against it.

Step 2: Find The Positive In It.

​We only stress about the things we care about.

For example, if you don’t care about climate change and don’t believe its real – then you’re unlikely to feel stressed when reading an article with the latest research on the topic.

A totally different experience from someone like myself, who cares deeply about climate change and the future of the planet.

When we’re feeling stressed, it means there is something in this experience that we’re emotionally connected to. We’re working on a meaningful project. Disagreeing with someone we care about. Or we’re having trouble communicating our values and emotions to a manager at work.

Growth requires growing pains and within these uncomfortable moments there is something positive.

A learning lesson… A hidden message from your subconscious… An important action you’re afraid to take…

Something important that creates an opportunity to reconnect with a belief, value or thing that you care deeply about. Lean in, get curious and embrace what your mind and body is trying to tell you.

It’s within special moments like these where you find personal fulfillment and enhance your life experience.

Step 3: Use the “Stress Response” to your advantage.

In response to a stressor (ex: big project, argument, etc.), your body creates a stress response.

As we have already learned, this response gets you moving and prepares your body for the challenge/adversity created by the stressor.

​Your body will automatically do things like speed up your heart rate which might make you feel worried. And the release of cortisol and adrenaline into your bloodstream might make you feel a little jittery and panicked.

These adaptations and changes can feel uncomfortable when we’re not used to them.

Dr. Crumb explains that when we label this discomfort as “bad” or “negative”, stress becomes debilitating. This creates situations where we’re more likely to checkout or freak-out.

​But at the right levels and for short periods of time – these adaptations are extremely positive.

Like a superhero with powerful abilities, these helpful changes allow us to focus for longer, make us stronger, process information faster and retain new knowledge better.

You can use these superpowers to achieve tough goals that you’re working towards.

Rather than label the stress response as something is wrong, try labelling it as your body is warming up. The discomfort you’re feeling is temporary and like an engine struggling to start on a cold day, your brain needs time to heat up.

That’s why the 10-Minute Rule is so effective at breaking procrastination (aka checking out). It forces you to commit to doing a task for at least 10 minutes. This pushes you through the discomfort of warming up and adapt to the stress response.

As a result, the initial discomfort fades and 9 our of 10 times you’ll decide to keep going.

Mindset Action Items

Procrastination and experiencing a stress response is common within sales. Now that you have a better understanding of a stress enhancing mindset and how it’s beneficial, reflect on the following questions to help put it into action:

  • Can you reframe certain uncomfortable feelings throughout your day as positive instead of negative?
  • Are you feeling stressed because you just REALLY care deeply about something?
  • How can you use the enhancing effects of stress to support and achieve the things you care about?

Additional Resources

To listen to a recent podcast between Dr. Crum and Dr. Huberman around the Science of Mindsets for Health & Performance, which inspired this post – click here.

For more best practices to improve your sales performance through better Mental Health, download The Guide To Better Mental Health In Sales. For live virtual Mental Health, Stress-Management and Resilience training programs that I deliver to sales teams, click on the link below.

See Training Offerings

About The Author

mental health advocate Jeff Riseley

Jeff Riseley is currently the Founder of the Sales Health Alliance and Mental Health Advocate. With over a decade of sales experience – Jeff understands the importance of Mental Health in achieving peak sales performance.

Jeff combines his sales and Mental Health expertise to improve sales performance through mental health best practices. His strategies have helped sales teams become more motivated, resilient and better equipped to tackle stressful events within sales.

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