Turn Stress from Enemy to Friend

It’s 10am, and your to-do list hasn’t shrunk. In fact, you’ve only added to it since the emails and calls started rolling in. Make stress your friend? It’s the enemy you can’t escape!

Surprising research indicates that your relationship with stress matters more than your level of stress. Scientists at the University of Wisconsin made a fascinating discovery. US adults who thought they had high levels of stress and that stress was bad for them had a 43% greater chance of early death. Remarkably, those who reported high stress but who regarded stress as harmless had the lowest mortality rate.

Stress isn’t your enemy; it’s what you think of stress that determines its impact on your longevity, quality of life, and happiness. After all, stress is nothing more than your response to some internal or external demand.

How to Change your Relationship with Stress

Befriending stress -- or at least, making peace with stress -- is easier said than done. Changing a belief that has been built and reinforced over years and even decades isn’t a snap. Some beliefs become so ingrained so that they’re automatic.

A simple way to change such established thinking is by practicing mindfulness. By focusing on the present with curiosity, we open up our minds to explore and embrace new thoughts, including the idea that stress doesn’t have to be harmful.

College students who learned how to practice mindfulness reported significantly fewer negative thoughts and were able to dismiss these thoughts more easily than before they had tried mindfulness. Practicing mindfulness also improves your emotional state, making it easier to entertain and sustain positive attitudes in difficult situations. Indeed, we can find ourselves viewing situations that generate  stress as opportunities for growth rather than threats.

Give mindfulness practice a try for a few minutes a day for two weeks and see what difference it makes with stress. (Instructions at bottom of link.) You might make a new friend in the process.