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Why Stress Can Actually Be Good For You

For years we’ve been told how unhealthy stress can be and how important it is to manage our stress. Turns out, everything we thought we knew about stress might actually be wrong.

Nadine Todd

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As a high-performing entrepreneur, there are few things more irritating than being told to work less and manage your stress. You’re building a business, which by its very nature requires a lot of time and is stressful.

Here’s the good news. Health psychologist and author of the best-selling book The Upside of Stress: Why Stress Is Good for You, and How to Get Good at It, Kelly McGonigal, has one mission: To help people be happier and healthier. For many years this meant sharing the message that stress makes you sick. It increases the risk of everything from the common cold to cardiovascular disease. Basically, she turned stress into the enemy.

But thanks to some ground-breaking studies, Kelly changed her mind. As it turns out, stress doesn’t kill you. Thinking that stress will kill you is the real killer.

Don’t view stress as harmful

Kelly’s opinion of stress started shifting after a ground-breaking study in the US tracked 30 000 adults for eight years. At the start of the study, participants were asked how much stress they had experienced in the last year, and if they believed stress was harmful to their health. They then used public death records to find out who died.

Related: 49 Inspirational Quotes And Mantras To Help You Overcome The Stress Of Running A Business

Here’s the bad news: People who experienced a lot of stress in the previous year had a 43% higher chance of dying. But  that was only true for the people who also believed that stress is harmful.

People who experienced a lot of stress but did not view stress as harmful to their health were no more likely to die than people with absolutely no stress in their lives. In fact, the focus group who had experienced stress but didn’t view it as harmful actually had the lowest risk of dying of anyone in the study.

Change your response to stress

Other studies have revealed that changing your mind about stress can change your body’s response to it. You can make stress good for you. In one Harvard study, participants were placed in a stressful situation but told that the stress response was good and would help them cope with the situation. Briefed that all the physical signs of stress were helping them to stay focused and perform at their peak — including a heightened heart rate — the participants had a different physiological reaction to someone who believes their stress response is bad.

In a typical stress response, your heart rate goes up and your blood vessels constrict. Constricted vessels are a factor in cardiovascular disease; chronic stress is sometimes associated with heart attacks. It’s not healthy to be in this state all the time.

But in the study, when participants viewed their stress response as helpful, their blood vessels stayed relaxed. Their heart was still pounding, but their cardiovascular profile looked more like what happens in moments of joy and courage. Over a lifetime of stressful experiences, this one biological change could be the difference between a stress-induced heart attack at 50 and living well into your 90s.

Stress also releases oxytocin, which fine-tunes your brain’s social instincts. It primes you to do things that strengthen relationships by making you crave physical contact with your friends and family, enhancing your empathy, and making you more willing to help and support people you care about. So, when oxytocin is released in the stress response, it’s motivating you to seek support.

How will knowing this side of stress make you healthier? Oxytocin also acts on your body. One of its main roles is to protect your cardiovascular system from the effects of stress. It’s a natural anti-inflammatory that also helps your blood vessels stay relaxed during stress. It even helps heart cells regenerate and heal from any stress-induced damage.

Pulling it all together

The harmful effects of stress on your health are not inevitable. How you think and act can transform your experience of stress. When you view your stress response as helpful, you create the biology of courage. And when you choose to connect with others under stress, you can create resilience.

Stress gives us access to our hearts, from the compassionate heart that finds joy and meaning in connecting with others, and to the pounding physical heart, working so hard to give us strength and energy. When you view stress this way, you’re not just getting better at it, you’re actually making a profound statement that you trust yourself to handle life’s challenges and that you don’t have to face them alone.

Read next: 4 Stress-Management Tips For Reducing Anxiety And Getting More Done

Watch Kelly McGonigal’s Ted Talk on how to make stress your friend:

Nadine Todd is the Managing Editor of Entrepreneur Magazine, the How-To guide for growing businesses. Find her on Google+.

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Self Development

Why Your Professional Persona Matters

You don’t have to become a different person to succeed in business.

Timothy Sykes

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For superheroes, getting into professional mode is as easy as slapping on some spandex, a mask and a cape. For the everyday entrepreneur, however, the proper work mindset is less about attire and more about adopting a professional persona.

Your professional persona is your personal branding in the workplace. It refers to the way that you conduct yourself publicly in a business setting, and the image you project to coworkers and colleagues. Far from contrived or inauthentic, it’s simply the polished-up way that you present yourself professionally.

How do I develop a professional persona?

It’s actually extremely easy to develop a professional persona. All you have to decide is who you want to be in the workplace, and then take efforts with your attitude, dress, and conduct to become that version of yourself. Action follows intention, and over time, you’ll find that adopting your professional persona feels as natural as putting on your coat before leaving the house.

Now that you understand what a professional persona is, let’s talk about why you should work on cultivating one and what you stand to gain.

Create a self fulfilling prophecy

Success is typically hard-earned and slow in the making. However, if you take the time to develop a professional persona, it can help bring success sooner. If you conduct yourself casually and informally in the workplace, you’re less likely to be taken seriously and might spend far longer in the career trenches.

But if you make a concerted effort to conduct yourself with the professionalism of a manager or CEO, you’ll make yourself a more desirable candidate for advancement. Since you’ve already demonstrated the appropriate attitude for higher level positions, you’re more likely to be thought of when opportunities arise.

Related: 25 Bad Words That Make Other People Feel Inferior

Focus on what’s important

When you establish a professional persona, you put yourself in the right state of mind for work. This can help you attain your career goals.

Say, for instance, that one of your big career goals is to become a leading authority in your field so that you can become the next TED Talk celebrity. With this specific goal in mind, you can tailor your professional persona so that it can help advance you toward this goal. For instance, you might begin speaking at local networking events or starting a topical podcast. Doing things like this will help you establish a professional persona of being an expert in your niche.

Make yourself indispensable

One of the best ways to create job security is to make yourself indispensable in your position. A professional persona can help by letting you establish recognisable and dependable hallmarks in your working style.

For instance, perhaps part of your persona is that you are the person who always meets his or her deadlines on time. In time, this will become part of your professional identity and will be part of how people see you in your office or field. When others know and trust that they can depend on you, you’ll make yourself indispensable. Over time, this can have a powerful and positive effect on your career.

Be taken more seriously

A casual attitude is fine when you’re hanging out with friends. But in a professional setting, it may be holding you back. When you present yourself with a more polished professional persona in work settings, you’ll be taken more seriously. This doesn’t mean you can’t have fun at work, of course. But it does mean that you should conduct yourself with an air of professionalism and should never engage in bad habits like gossip or use language that might come back to haunt you later.

Remember: You get what you give. When you act respectfully in the workplace, you’re more likely to be treated with the same respect.

You’ll get more followers

More and more, entrepreneurs are using social media to attain a higher professional status or to attract more business.

When you take the time to develop a professional persona, you adopt a personal style, a way of articulating, and potentially even an aesthetic. These things add up to more clear and compelling personal/professional branding. This can help you maintain a consistency on social media platforms that makes your posts recognisable. Over time, this can lead to additional followers, which can mean more opportunities for selling, career advancement, and more.

Develop a thicker skin

You’ve probably heard that you shouldn’t take things personally in the professional sphere. But anyone who has ever experienced rejection or criticism in their career knows that this is much easier said than done.

Your professional persona can help give you some personal armour. When you have a professional persona, it can be easier to separate your personal life from your work to a greater degree. No, this doesn’t mean that you won’t feel any pain when things go wrong, but it will allow you to compartmentalise in a positive way, so that an issue at work doesn’t impact your personal life quite as much.

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

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Company Posts

6 Steps To Cultivate A Success Mindset

What does a winning mindset mean to you? It’s what has separated the likes of Tiger Woods, Roger Federer, Serena Williams, Usain Bolt and Floyd Mayweather from fellow professional athletes. Adopting a similar approach could help you achieve massive success in 2019 and beyond.

ACCA

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A winning mindset is the trait that allows you to persist even when defeat looks like the most probable outcome. People with a winning mindset are much clearer about the process to attain their goals. They are not afraid of failure as long as they believe that they’re doing the right thing. That’s the difference between winners and losers.

1. Persist and understand that you must put in the work before you see results

The most successful people embody the principle of a winning mindset, because very few people in the world, be it in sports or business, can succeed without having to overcome obstacles. It’s seldom that talent is all one needs to succeed in any endeavour, otherwise most people would be successful.

A good way to understand this principle is to observe professional athletes before and during tournaments. Anybody competing in professional sports, such as the Olympics, has the talent but not all professional athletes are winners. A number of their memorable victories were achieved when they came from behind, when it looked like they were losing.

2. Press the reset button for the new year

The new year is notorious for long lists of resolutions that are not honoured and ultimately remain wishes. That said, the dawn of a new year tends to bring with it positive energy and a commitment to do things differently.

Entrepreneurs need to approach the New Year with a simple goal to do better than the prior year in whatever endeavour they are undertaking. It is important to build on current success or failure, and then commit to go one up. That way, the goal won’t seem unattainable.

Related: Many SMEs Start With Great Plans But Fail To Take The Big Leap

3. Take small incremental steps

The first step is to be clear about the goal and to write it down where you can see it every day. The second thing is to map the process of how you will get there, broken into small steps. From there onwards, focus on the process and not the goal as this allows one to achieve small but important victories. This needs to be backed up by an appropriate support system, associating with like-minded people.

4. Don’t stop upskilling yourself

Success in business is about creating shared value and solving real-world challenges that customers grapple with. Skills are therefore necessary to achieve success, so upskilling oneself is never a bad investment. It’s good to know something about everything, but ultimately one needs to know everything about something.

Some skills will be brought in through hiring staff, others through outsourcing and in some cases through strategic alliances.

5. Remember that no goal is static

One of the most important things to always remember is the goal, and that the goal is dynamic; it will have to be adjusted along the way. Business leaders can therefore celebrate the small victories fully aware that there is more work to be done. Achieving temporary success is easy, especially with all the tenders around, but building a sustainable business and staying on top requires persistence and hard work.

Related: Organisational Design Disruptions Do Not Occur In A Vacuum: Future Business Models

6. Your top tool is in your head

It’s all in the mind, backed by passion and a strong desire to succeed. If anything, business leaders need to train themselves to be uncomfortable with the status quo, not to get too comfortable with the present.


Why Not Consider The Acca Qualification For 2019?

ACCA professionals are more than accountants. They think holistically, consider challenges in the context of business and have strong strategic and leadership skills. Visit www.accaglobal.com for more information.

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Self Development

Taking Care Of Mental Health Is Powerful, Not Weak

Charlamagne Tha God talks success, anxiety and mental health.

Lewis Howes

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It’s time to open up. No matter what you’re dealing with, you’re not alone.

There is nothing shameful about having anxiety. Think about this acronym for FEAR – you either Fear Everything And Run or Face Everything And Rise. The more you confront the things in your past you don’t want to do with, the more you’ll be able to move forward. So, are you going to run from your fear, or face it?

On today’s episode of The School of Greatness, I talk about anxiety and PTSD with a man who has become an unofficial mental health advocate: Charlamagne Tha God.

New York Times bestselling author Charlamagne Tha God is best known for being co-host of the nationally syndicated hip-hop iHeartRadio program “The Breakfast Club.” He is also a social media influencer; an executive producer with his own production company, CThaGod World; and co-host of the popular podcast Brilliant Idiots.

Charlamagne says that refining his life’s mission and examining his past helped him take control of his anxiety.

Don’t allow anxiety or depression to cause you to keep suffering. Learn about Charlamagne Tha God’s mental health struggles and what he did to restart his life on Episode 721.

Related: The Business Of Anxiety In Business: Giving Heroes Permission To Feel Vulnerable

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

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