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How Stress Can Actually Improve the Quality of Your Life

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Naturally, those of us who experience less stress in our lives are more likely to succeed. So, it’s important that you learn how to reduce your daily level of stress, right? Maybe not. Recent research has shown the common wisdom about stress might be dangerously inaccurate. Psychologists tracked the health of 30,000 adults in the United States over an 8-year period. Participants were asked two important questions:

1.    “How much stress have you experienced in the last year?”
2.    “Do you believe stress is harmful to your health?”

The researchers found that people who experienced high levels of stress were 43% more likely to die in the study’s 8-year period. Doesn’t that prove stress is in fact bad for your health? Not exactly, stress was only harmful to the people who believed stress was harmful.

Those people who experienced high amounts of stress but didn’t believe it was harmful to their health were less likely to die than all other groups in the study. They were even less likely to die than the people who experienced low levels of stress (but believed stress is harmful.)

Put simply, people who believe that stress is not harmful live longer lives than those who believe it is. This study showed that it might not be stress that damages our health, but our beliefs about stress that damages our health.

“The greatest mistake you can make in life is to be continually fearing you will make one.” – Elbert Hubbard

Breakthroughs In Stress Research

At first, this might be hard to believe. Kelly McGonigal elegantly explains this phenomenon in The Upside of Stress, “Stress mindsets are powerful because they affect not just how you think but also how you act. When you view stress as harmful, it is something to be avoided. Feeling stressed becomes a signal to try to escape or reduce the stress. And indeed, people who endorse a stress-is-harmful mindset are more likely to say that they cope with stress by trying to avoid it.”

People who believe stress is negative are more likely to avoid it by smoking, binge-eating, or watching too much TV. Afterwards, their physical health pays the price. Fortunately, research has shown that your beliefs about stress can be changed – and changing them has powerful benefits.

A study by Jeremy Jameson and colleagues had people endure a grueling social stress test. Participants were asked to give a 5-minute impromptu speech about their personal weaknesses to a panel of judges. To make this situation even more stressful, the judges were instructed to give negative feedback to the participant giving the speech. This study wasn’t just about sadistically putting people through social pressure, it was testing whether a mindset intervention could change how people react to stress.

Before giving the impromptu speech, participants were shown one of two videos:

  • The first video opened with the message, “Most people think that stress is negative… but research shows that stress is even more debilitating than you expect.”
  • The second video opened with, “Most people think that stress is negative… but actually research shows that it is enhancing.”

Participants who were shown the video that gave examples of how stress can be enhancing were less stressed out during the interview, felt more confident while speaking, and gave better interviews (as rated both by themselves and the judges). Even more impressively, although normally a stress response causes a person’s blood vessels to constrict, the blood vessels of participants who saw the pro-stress video remained relaxed.

“Much of the stress that people feel doesn’t come from having too much to do. It comes from not finishing what they’ve started.” – David Allen

The Power Of Your Stress Mindset

So, a 3-minute video was able to change the way people responded to a stressful situation, not just psychologically, but physiologically. When we think stress is something we must avoid, stress becomes a negative feedback loop. We experience stress, we think it’s a bad thing, and then our stress makes us even more stressed (and on and on).

But, when we think stress is just a natural part of life, or even a good thing, we are able to embrace it instead of being controlled by it. This not only allows us to perform better in stressful situations, it also enables us to make healthier decisions (because we won’t attempt to avoid stress with unhealthy coping behaviors).

How do you handle stress? Comment below!

Image courtesy of Twenty20.com

Avery Hayden’s struggle with anxiety and panic disorder lead him to become deeply interested in psychology and self-improvement. He read hundreds of books about anxiety, stress, and finding happiness and found that true personal transformation is possible.Now he writes about the most powerful tools for change he has discovered. You can find more of his articles on Medium: https://medium.com/@aghayden

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3 Comments

3 Comments

  1. Chas Reuss

    Jun 13, 2019 at 7:16 pm

    Youre so cool! I dont suppose Ive read anything like this before. So nice to find somebody with some original thoughts on this subject. realy thank you for starting this up. this website is something that is needed on the web, someone with a little originality. useful job for bringing something new to the internet!

  2. Carolyn

    May 28, 2019 at 2:54 am

    Great article. There’s definitely a sweet spot when it comes to stress. A little bit like Goldilocks actually – not too much, not too little. It needs to be just right. And, as you’ve mentioned, mindset also needs to be in alignment as well.

  3. Alessia

    Jul 17, 2018 at 6:42 pm

    I appreciated your article, the reference to studies on stress that is more harmful if you think it in a negative sense. It must be said that stress, within certain limits, also has a positive value. The flow, which is connected to the discourse on stress, is a very profitable working condition.

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Life

How to Harness the Power of Your Personal Narrative

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Are you “living up” or “living down” to your personal narrative? When you set out to achieve an important goal, you’ll come face-to-face with many obstacles, such as starting a new business and not having your prospects reply to your prospecting emails. Perhaps you’ve had an interview for a new job and learned you didn’t make the final round of applicants. 

In those difficult moments, you have to have an internal conversation with yourself, known as self-talk. What do you say? How do you feel? You may find yourself succumbing to negativity or failing to believe in your own self-worth. If so, it’s nothing to be ashamed of. We’re all easily overwhelmed by our doubts and fears, because it’s what makes us human.

However, these feelings can not only shape a sense of identity, but also allow our doubt and fear to determine the outcome. When this happens, it’s vital to understand how to have the courage and conviction to move forward despite the obstacles. This includes moving forward in the midst of struggling, even when success seems lightyears away. This may seem daunting, but the answer is right in front of us. It lies in our personal narrative.

“We keep moving forward, opening new doors, and doing new things because we’re curious and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths.” – Walt Disney

What is a personal narrative?

A personal narrative is a life-script that is often followed without question or protest. The conversations you have internally, known as self-talk, make up the core component to our personal narrative. Your self talk represents a powerful belief system that’s baked into our day-to-day existence.

Each of us possess a personal narrative that encompasses a belief system that shapes us and what we see as possible in our lives. As a result, we either ​live up or ​live down to that personal narrative.

While a personal narrative is the starting place, it’s a powerful one. On one hand, when a negative narrative becomes suffocating, it can be hard to escape. This will lead you to foster the belief that you’re incapable of accomplishing something, ensuring that you’ll be less likely to continue to take the necessary steps in the direction of a dream

Your narrative may be so powerful that you may just assume the worst, ending any possibility for you to put in the necessary time, effort and perseverance required to achieve a different outcome.

“The inner speech, your thoughts, can cause you to be rich or poor, loved or unloved, happy or unhappy, attractive or unattractive, powerful or weak.” – Ralph Charell

Cultivating positive narratives

On the other hand, what if we possessed personal narratives that were more positive? This  is not just positive thinking, because it is the practice of consciously cultivating a narrative that you could live up to instead​. Imagine how a more positive narrative could support more preferable outcomes.

In life, this may sound like, “I plan to do well in this interview, so I am going to take every action to support that expectation – like working with a career coach.” Or it may sound like, “Because I am someone who tries hard even when I am overwhelmed or uncomfortable, I am going to ask for help if I feel stuck.” That way, when a challenge arises – as they always do, you will grow to trust in your ability to navigate it.

The more you practice this, the more you will come to realize that your personal narrative really represents the essence of who you are. Your self-talk will evolve into someone who plans to do well during an interview, a business meeting, or a workout class because you become someone who invests in their personal well-being as an extension of your self-concept.

Cultivating positive narratives is not a what-if situation. It is an intentional practice that everyone can benefit from. It provides the framework for who you can become. Most importantly, it’s the key to help us transform into the best version of ourselves, while defending our dreams against a spiral of fear or self-doubt.

So, what does your personal narrative sound like? And how can you live up to it? Share with us below!

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Life

5 Reasons It’s Important to Understand What You Want to Do With Your Life

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No matter your age or your place in life, it is perfectly normal to not know exactly what your next steps should be. There are many factors that can contribute to this situation but it is always important to remember that everything happens for a reason and that this will help you build a much happier you.

There are many ways for you to understand what you should be doing with your life and there are just as many reasons why you should work towards getting a better understanding of those reasons.

If you wish to turn any situation around and start working towards finding your purpose, here are some of the most important reasons why:

1. You will be able to set long term goals for the future

Setting long term goals is one of the things that will help you feel more secure and certain about your future. Instead of relying on living day by day and trying to figure out what your next steps will be without having a future ultimate goal, you will now be able to plan accordingly so that your every step will bring you a step closer to making that dream come true.

One of the things many people forget though is that every plan, no matter how well-organized and planned out it is, will need to be adapted to every situation the person is experiencing. Knowing what your ultimate goal is will help you handle every change of plans with more confidence and will allow you to manoeuvre every situation and turn your problems into positive outcomes.

2. You will get rid of a lot of anxiety

One of the best things about finally getting a better understanding of what you wish to do with your life is that you will finally start feeling less anxious and unsure about the future. Having a certain plan you can follow and looking forward to making a big goal come true will help rid yourself of negative thoughts and allow you to be able to focus on achieving your dreams.

Anxiety is a very common problem in the time we live in and it can make a lot of people feel less productive and scared to take risks, especially in a professional manner. As a result, they tend to hold themselves back and do fewer things than they are capable of, simply because they are too scared to dare.

Realizing what you wish to do in your life and working towards achieving your goals will help you feel less stressed and even if you do, this type of anxiety could actually help you be much more productive and eager to do your best in order to make your dreams manifest into reality.

3. You will be much happier

Understanding what you wish to do in your life will truly help you finally figure out what you are meant to do in your life. For some people, it can help them find their purpose and give them a new perspective on everything they do in their everyday life.

This will help you feel a lot happier and will put your mind at ease, as you won’t have to continue wondering if the path you have chosen to follow is the right one for you or not. Feeling more certain of your decisions will help you feel a lot more confident and happier since you will feel strong enough to overcome anything that might come your way from now and on.

4. You won’t lose time or energy on smaller goals

Setting shorter goals without knowing what you are meant to do in the long run will cost you a lot of energy and time. This will happen as you will spend a lot of time planning out your every move and it will cause you to feel stressed and worried about every little thing going wrong.

Smaller goals will still be important but you won’t spend much time planning them as you would if you didn’t know what your end goal would be. Saving energy and preparing both mentally and physically for reaching your goal will help you achieve a much healthier outlook on dealing with everyday situations and it will make you more excited to complete your ambitions.

5. You will become an expert in one field

Last but not least, another important reason why you should try and understand exactly what you are meant to do in your life is that you will be able to focus all of your time and energy on learning as much as possible and growing only in one certain field.

The uncertainty of having a set goal for your future can make you feel like you need to know many different things in different fields in order to be able to succeed in life and make a living. While having knowledge in various fields is something that will prove to be useful, you will never fully be able to become an expert in one field and make a name for yourself in that sector.

A long term goal will allow you to either study or work full time on one subject you truly enjoy and are good at. This will help you build your reputation, make connections and allow yourself to enjoy and love the path you have chosen even more. As a result, you will be much happier and content with the end goal you have chosen and you will be able to work even harder to achieve all of your dreams.

Working towards a happier you

You might be at a point in your life where you feel like not a lot of things are truly worth your time but the truth is that every little thing you do will help you find what you are meant to do. This will help you feel happy and content and allow you to tackle every issue you come across with much less anxiety and fear.

You will find a lot of stability and comfort in setting a big and important goal for your future and this will allow you to start being more productive and happy to tackle every problem that might come your way. Your life will always be full of surprises and unplanned events but hard work and dedication on your goals will allow you to become the best version of you and enjoy every step of the way.

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3 Ways to Stay Strong and Push Through When Hardships Arise

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We all have trials and tribulations, and most times they are out of our control. I believe that’s why it can be so frustrating when trouble arises, because we feel powerless. But this isn’t true! How we perceive these times gives us power, and will ultimately dictate the quality of our lives.

Each event can have many interpretations. You can ask two people about a situation they both went through, and sometimes you’ll get two completely different answers! Most times this isn’t because one was being truthful and the other wasn’t, but because of how they perceived the events that took place.

That’s how powerful perceptions are, so why not use this power to our benefit? Instead of thinking on what was lost, think of what there is to gain. When you think positively, it helps you from not feeling stuck, and helps you look towards the future. 

Below are three things to consider whenever a hardship comes your way:

1. This is an opportunity for me to grow

Viewing troubling times as an opportunity to improve and grow will give you a sense of freedom and happiness because you’ve decided to lead your life, as opposed to just accepting your life. Some people just accept the things that happen to them/around them. When you have this mindset, you are telling yourself there is nothing you can do in that situation, and you are giving away your power.

This will affect not only your mood, but also the people around you, especially if you’re a leader. They feed off your energy and body language. When you focus on growth, you can think more clearly on solutions, which is what you want. It’s ok to feel sad, frustrated, or confused. If you want to be successful, you will feel all of these, and quite often. When you do, recognize what your feeling, but don’t feed it. If you do, it will grow.

“If you don’t design your own life plan, chances are you’ll fall into someone else’s plan. And guess what they have planned for you? Not much.” – Jim Rohn

2. Don’t focus on the problem, find the solution

This sounds pretty simple but how many of us focus more energy on the problem and why it happened or who did it, instead of trying to focus immediately on the solution? I learned this in the military. If something goes wrong, my superiors were less concerned with who did it and more concerned with finding a solution to the problem, and as quickly as possible.

But I was once guilty of this thinking, and sometimes I slip back into that mode of thinking when my emotions are strong. Changing your mindset to focus on solutions will give you a sense of power, which will calm you, because you feel in control. This in turn, will help you think clearly and rationally, as opposed to emotionally. Furthermore, being in a more relaxed state of mind will allow you to absorb information more clearly so you can learn from the incident and become a better you.

3. Determine how the hardship improves your character

What was being tested during your hardship? Patience? Empathy? Communication? Understanding? Endurance? I remember working for a boss I did not like. He seemed to pick on me, and I couldn’t understand it. I went above and beyond what was asked of me, but people were still being promoted quicker than I was.

To give a little depth on my perception at the time, I was born and raised in Brooklyn NY. Not poor, but close to it. So respect is something that is valued greatly in neighborhoods I come from, because we don’t have much else. Respect was your money, and could get you things money couldn’t buy.

Now everyone wants respect, but me, I need it that much more. So when I felt he wasn’t giving me respect, I almost convinced myself to handle these matters. Imagine the people you train, passing you by and you know their work ethic doesn’t match yours. It sucked.

I talked to my dad, who always gives great council, and he told me it wouldn’t be wise. He told me to look for ways to grow, and I did. And let me tell you, during that time I learned things that cannot be taught in classrooms because you can only be learned through experience. My endurance was really challenged, but made me wiser and stronger, which made me better equipped to deal with future troubles I’d have. Because of those lessons, I was able to teach others about my experience and give wise counsel.

“Lead a life of your own design, on your own terms. Not one that others or the environment have scripted for you.” – Tony Robbins

When those times come, ask yourself where you’re weak and what you can you do to improve on that weakness. Finding something you’re not good at should make you happy, because it gives you a chance to improve! If you suck at something, do something about it! Don’t wallow in self-pity. It’s not a fruitful exercise.

When hardships come your way, your perception is a powerful weapon that you must manipulate, don’t let it manipulate you. Ask yourself how can this help you grow, what positive opportunity is hidden in the hardship and focus on the solution, not the problem. Doing these things will put the power back in your court. Give it a shot, it changed my life!

How do you keep your head up high when hardships arise? Share your thoughts and advice down below!

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Life

7 Essential Mindset Shifts From Gary Vaynerchuk That’ll Help You Have an Amazing Life

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Image Credit: Gary Vaynerchuk

Gary Vaynerchuk is full of little gems to success if you listen with an open mind. His unfiltered way of sharing old school values mixed with modern day approaches is remarkably simple and highly contagious. In this world of instant gratification, everyone is focused on doing things faster in order to produce exponential results.

When our visions don’t become an instant reality, we play the comparison game and judge ourselves. This ultimately leads to a decline in our health and crushes our visions. Many of us want to be an overnight success but need a better psychological framework to endure the ride.

Here are 7 perspectives that Gary Vaynerchuk is currently popularising that can help your mindset game be stronger:

1. Aim for happiness 

Gary Vaynerchuk’s definition of happiness is “being able to do what you want at all times.” This does not mean quit because your work doesn’t make you happy right now, especially if it is the stepping stone for your ideal lifestyle. 

For a period of time you will need to grind and do tasks that are unenjoyable. If happiness is not within your metrics of success, you will eventually suffer from an irregularity in your mental or physical health, which in turn has a downward ripple effect on your valued relationships. 

2. Enjoy paying your dues

Every industry has its own set of rules to work up the chain of command. You need to learn to love each role and responsibility that comes with that. Going in with a curious and enthusiastic energy is bound to shine through and show those around you how serious you are. 

Be present and learn from every experience you encounter. This is a journey for bigger and better things but you need to put in the time, work and sacrifice to be rewarded. Life is all about what you put into it. You don’t know how these earlier stages will serve you in years to come, so take pride in the journey and appreciation for the lessons and people you meet along the way.

3. Obsessively love what you do

You should always be doing what you want, especially if you have a clearly defined purpose. Purpose is such an energizing force, regardless of whether you are earning $40,000 or $4,000,000. If you really love what you’re doing and it’s where you want to be then you’re already winning. 

Always start with what you love because the only way you’re going to hustle hard enough is if you love it. It’s hard to get going around something you’re not passionate about. When you learn to love the game more than the trophy, the game gives you, and you’re on your way up.

“You have to understand your own personal DNA. Don’t do things because I do them or Steve Jobs or Mark Cuban tried it. You need to know your personal brand and stay true to it.”- Gary Vaynerchuk

4. Don’t be driven by the money

To do extremely well in the game of business without disrupting other pillars in your life, you must wake up each morning pondering what solutions need to be found today. You need to be wildly curious and driven by the game of business on a micro level while seeing the macro outcomes. 

When you’re excited to play the game, you become absorbed in mastery over playing with your phone, gossiping with friends and watching mindless content. You relentlessly invest in yourself and your growth, which in turn is remunerated with wealth.

5. Have gratitude

Have you ever thought about the fact that the odds of being a human being are 400 trillion to one? You must create an unbelievably clear perspective of how lucky we are to be human. This in turn makes it a struggle to dwell on things that don’t matter. 

Focus your attention on the things that you value and appreciate. Appreciate your good health and family, because you’ll value it more. Appreciate your gifts, friends, work and life. By doing this, your perception begins to shift. You see the blessings of your life, versus the broken parts.

6. Adversity is your superpower

Adversity and humble beginnings is an incredible framework to happiness, especially when you layer positivity and optimism around your difficulty. We all have hardships and various scenarios that throw us off balance along the way. 

Our super power is when we use that as fuel to drive us to be less audacious and experience more, instead of being held back. What you think and focus on grows. Shift the perspective in your mind so your adversity doesn’t define you, but instead drives you.

“It’s insane to me to ask anybody to be what they’re not. Know what you know the best, love the most. That’s always going to be the answer to the thing that you have the best shot at winning at.” – Gary Vaynerchuk

7. Be excited everyday because you get to play

Learn how to start your morning well and continue that energy throughout the day. That vigour builds momentum that will allow you to actually make your mark. Be fired up that you have given yourself a clear vision and your making moves to play a strong game. This type of mindset gives you an intrinsic pull to do and be better daily rather than external motivation, which over time dies out.

Mindset is everything and it all falls down to your perspective of things. Don’t judge yourself by what you accomplish daily, instead, judge it yearly. It takes years of great creative work to be recognized. Be patient. In the meantime, look at your daily habits and ask yourself if they are causing you to evolve or revolve. Are you moving forward, or just moving in circles? Take constant action to move forward and be grateful you have the opportunity to play in the game of life. 

What’s your favorite Gary Vaynerchuk mindset from the article? Share your thoughts below!

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