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Harnessing the Power of Stress

Stress is most commonly defined as the body's response to any demands placed upon it to change. Merriam-Webster says those demands can come in the form of anything that presses on, pulls, pushes against, compresses or twists the body, whether physically or mentally.

The demands of chronic #stress produce changes on the body that have direct implications on the quality of health lived. Long term stress, meaning stress that lasts months into years, has many harmful effects and is downright bad. It depresses the immune system, making it easier and quicker to get sick. It also thickens the blood and deposits plaque allow the vessels. Stress ages your body quicker and has been ranked as the six leading causes of death.

Stress seems to be all doom and gloom. It's as if it's meant to wreak havoc on all aspects our lives, personal and professional. But what if we could look at the pressures and tensions we experience in a different way?

There's an alternate definition for stress that I picked up on from speaker, psychologist and author Kelly McGonigal's book, The Upside of Stress. For McGonical, stress is defined stress as “something that arises when you care about what is at stake.” This idea makes perfect sense, and, for me, actualizes what stress truly is and where it might be stemming from.

With McGonigal's definition in mind, I can begin to take an objective look at all of the pressures I experience, and attempt to use them to my advantage. Following, let's take a closer look at how stress -- in the right amount -- can propel us forward as opposed to taking us down. 

Benefits of Short-Term Stress

Since long-term stress is harmful, you might assume that short-term stress is equally dangerous. This is not the case though. Not all stress creates the same response. Fridaus Dhabhar, from Stanford University, studied the good side of stress. Focusing on the upside of stress transforms how you experience stress mentally & physically. He found that short-term stress boosts energy and is a fundamental source of fuel for the body and mind.

Remembering that energy makes everything possible in life, from finding a creative solution for a complex problem to tackling a 5K. Short term stress boosts the immune system, while long term stress depresses the same system. Additional benefits of embracing stress include increased happiness, productivity, and life satisfaction, greater confidence, and a healthier life.

While chronic stress should be avoided, the right type of stress can provide a boost of motivation and focus.

Have you noticed that you perform better when you’re under a little stress? Like the jittery nerves experienced before an event or when an important deadline is looming. According to the Yerkes-Dodson law, this stress can be beneficial to your performance, given the right pressure is applied. When too much stress is applied to your life, you can feel overwhelmed under this pressure. This results in poor performance. Too little stress, on the other hand, brings on boredom and lacks the momentum needed to get moving. The sweet spot is at the top of the stress curve with just enough to keep you attentive, motivated, and on task, but not so much that you’re overpowered. Those deeply successful in business and life understand this concept and welcome stress as a positive.

Ways to Move Into This Mindset

Once you begin to see that stress can be helpful and motivating, it will transform how you approach challenging situations going forward. There are two techniques to better equip you to harness the stress that comes your way and these include mindfulness and gratitude. Keep in mind that these are new skills and it takes time and practice to adopt them into your life. Be patient with yourself as you work on cultivating these skills.

Adopting Mindfulness

Mindfulness is deliberately pay attention to what you are doing at the moment without judgement. It helps you know when you’ve gotten off task or lost in your thoughts and brings you back to the present.

The mindfulness process can be broken down into three steps:

  1. Be aware when your mind is lost in thought

  2. Don’t worry about what you’re thinking or why you this popped into your mind.

  3. Just let it go.Take a breath in and out.

The scientific-backed benefits of mindfulness are quite amazing and include the following:

Improved health- Immune system is strengthened,, thus you’re sick less. Blood pressure decreases and cells in body age slower.

Boosted mind – Deepened empathy and kindness. Increased optimism.

Self-awareness – Become aware of the contents of your mind and understand the typical patterns that show up.

Pain decreasesResearch shows pain is lowered for those with occasional or chronic pain.

In summary you’ll be able to get more work done with less effort, feel less stressed, be happier and kinder, less bothered by people and situations, and healthier. I’d say sign me up!

Mindfulness can be practiced formally by sitting down and intentionally focusing your attention on your breath over and over again. The other method is practiced informally and allows you to practice mindfulness anytime throughout your day, except when sleeping. For example, taking a mindful breath before going into a meeting. Or being mindful as you drive to work in the morning.


The second technique to harness the power of stress involves gratitude. This is the act of counting your blessings. Gratitude helps you feel more positive emotions, relish good experiences, better deal with adversity, and build stronger relationships. It also makes you happier quicker and for a longer period of time.

It is a really good idea to force yourself into a positive frame of mind at least once per day. The result is that there is not a day that goes by without you specifically stating something positive that is happening around you. The more grateful you feel for simple interactions and experiences, the more satisfied you’ll be in life.

Gratitude is achieved by counting your blessings on a daily basis, ideally at the same time each day to set a routine. Think of small blessings like the birds singing or having a dog to come home to. Or how about being grateful for things that make you laugh, small accomplishments, or that one friend who will always has your back? Be grateful for the things that go wrong and the growth that develops as a result of this.

Even when you're having a terrible day there are always two things to be grateful for: you woke up this morning and are still alive.

While it’s not feasible to remove stress from your life, you can learn to stay on its good side. This is done by viewing stress as an opportunity that motivates into action and by remembering the benefits it offers your body and mind. When you add in mindfulness and daily gratitude to the mix, you can make stress work for you.


To learn more about how to harness the power of stress with a presentation or training from Wonderment, reach out to


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