Wait, Stress Can Actually Be Good for You?
Generally speaking, you probably don’t think of stress as a good thing, and being “stressed out” is likely a condition you try to shake off — for good reason. The truth is that chronic stress isn’t good for your mental or physical health, and can lead to serious conditions like hypertension, depression and even IBS. (Yep, we’re not kidding about that last one: Stress levels and stomach issues are often entwined in the worst way.)
But what if we told you that sometimes stress can actually benefit you — if, that is, you’re able to harness its positive side?
Like most things, stress exists on a spectrum. Too much and you might feel totally paralyzed and panicked; just the right amount, and you may actually be more productive and focused than usual, according to Dr. Oren Fuerst, an expert in the area of stress management and the co-creator of Serenita, an interactive personal stress management tool.
The Difference Between Positive + Negative Stress
Basically, Dr. Fuerst boiled the difference between “good” and “bad” stress down to the example of prepping for a test or a big presentation. “You don’t want to be frozen before an exam or not able to function,” he explains. “But on the other hand, you don’t want to be too calm and therefore not alert enough.” (Makes sense to us!) Furthermore, letting your stress skyrocket might actually disrupt your ability to pay attention and commit to the task at hand.
By now you might be wondering: What’s a gal gotta do to get into the ideal stress zone? We’ve got the deets on that too.
The trick is to take control of the tricky stress hormone, aka cortisol, which also exists on a spectrum of boons and drawbacks. Here’s the deal: Chronically high cortisol levels (and relatedly, high stress) are linked to stubborn belly fat, a weakened immune system and blood sugar regulation issues, among other health issues you definitely want to avoid. But when cortisol is functioning properly, the hormone can actually help your body react to crisis, keeping blood pressure levels stable (and even bumping up the body’s ability to fight off infection).
So, how to cap off your cortisol in the moment? Well, sleep, diet and relaxation definitely play a major role in the grander scheme of things, but — to return to the exam example — when you feel panic start to rise in your chest, one thing you can do to harness positive stress and keep from overloading is to get your breathing under control.
How to Get into the Positive Zone
Dr. Fuerst espouses what he calls the 3-1-6 method for managing stress levels. That means breathing in, ideally through your nose, for three seconds, holding your breath for one second, and then exhaling with control for six seconds. (Try that a couple times right now and pretend you don’t feel immediately more zen. We dare you.)
Okay, but what if you’re more interested in creating positive stress? Good news: There’s a breathing exercise for that too. “Rapid breathing can be used to incite stress and create energy and alertness,” says Dr. Fuerst. To do that, breathe in and out through your nose, inhaling and exhaling every one-to-two seconds. (We tried this, and about a minute in we were suddenly gifted with a weird ability to write entire paragraphs without checking Facebook. Increased focus: check!)
Of course, if you’re someone who suffers from chronic anxiety, finding more specifically targeted ways to get your stress under control is going to be key. But if you’re someone who is just looking to tap into the beneficial side of this often-mischaracterized state of being, consider mindful breathing to make your body’s natural reactions work on your own behalf.
“What people are calling ‘positive stress’ these days is sometimes just another term for alertness,” Dr. Fuerst added. Turning that on and off might take some practice, but it’s definitely a worthwhile superpower to have in your arsenal. You never know when you’re going to need it!
Got any tips for dealing with stress? Tweet us your best advice @BritandCo!
(Photos via Getty)
Getting the word out about your brand takes time, drive, and ingenuity. And it doesn't come easy for many entrepreneurs. As part of our collaboration with Office Depot, we're chatting with Selfmade alum Taylor Morgan McPherson, founder of Sustainable Sparkle Bar, about ways in which she scored press as a solo startup brand and what she learned from Selfmade to take her brand marketing up a notch.
B + C: How did you know Sustainable Sparkle Bar was your business to start?
Glitter has always been my thing, so when I started my event company I decided to make it my niche. I started telling people I threw glitter-themed parties where people would get sparkled with glitter body art and makeup. Six months after that I applied to my first festival and to work with SUR restaurant in West Hollywood.
B + C: What's one strategy that's helped you start your business?
I honestly can't say that I've had a specific strategy that I've followed when it comes to getting my business off the ground. I have a PR background so I was just constantly pitching new business and posting on social media.
B + C: What's the biggest challenge you face as a small business owner?
I would say creating a stable income and revenue stream. With a seasonal, event-based business it can be very up and down.
B + C: What was your most valuable takeaway from Selfmade?
The relationships I made and the push to start an email database.
B + C: How do you stay motivated?
I love what I do and I believe in myself 100%. Staying motivated isn't the hard part. Pushing myself to do the work and staying accountable is the hard part.
B + C: What's your best organizational tip? Do you use any apps that help you manage your business?
I keep multiple to-do lists, hand-written and digital. I also tell clients and partners that I will have something to them by a certain time or day so I have to stick to it.
B + C: What's one piece of advice you would give to female entrepreneurs on the brink of starting?
Just do it, take the leap. And don't worry about what anyone else says to thinks.
B + C: Who inspires you in the entrepreneurial space?
Issa Rae, I'm so inspired by everything that she's created being a creative and a black woman. It's my dream to have my own show one day based on my life and where I give advice and talk about the world. She's doing it and making people laugh and giving people joy. And it's based in LA. Watching Insecure only further cemented my dreams of wanting to live in LA.
B + C: How did you hear about the Office Depot scholarship?
One of my friends that I met through Camp No Counselors saw an IG ad for it and nominated me.
B + C: What has receiving the scholarship to Selfmade done to help you start/grow your business?
It's completely helped me level up and take my business to another level. Selfmade helped me host my first virtual event and taught me how to set up my website to sell tickets to events and get RSVPs.
B + C: How have Office Depot services or products helped you accomplish more in your business?
I got new cards to send in all of my orders with my discount code on them. I also bought a really cool 4K camera that I now use for my social media.
Let Office Depot OfficeMax help you stand out in the crowd. From signs, posters & banners to promote your business, to marketing materials to keep your customers informed, Office Depot OfficeMax offers a full suite of business services & solutions to help you & your business get noticed.
Head to Office Depot's Selfmade page to check out even more amazing business resources (and discounts!) to help you accomplish more on your entrepreneurial journey. These offers are available for a limited time only, so be sure to take advantage of all this goodness while supplies last. Want to join the next Selfmade cohort this summer? Check out all of the scholarship details right here.