Stress is not the enemy! Use stress to your advantage at work.

leadershipStress is as common in the workplace as coffee breaks and lack of conference room space. We’ve been given tips for years on how to reduce stress: practice yoga or meditation, make lists, drink more coffee or water or tea. But it turns out we should be embracing stress, not fighting it.

In a recent TED Talk, psychologist Kelly McGonigal says stress is not the enemy we have made it out to be. In fact, according to a recent study, stress is only a risk to your health if you think stress is a risk to your health. In the study, which takes place over an eight-year period, researchers found that people who experienced a high amount of stress faced a 43 percent increased risk of death—if they also believed stress is harmful for your health.

If your stress level just increased with the threat of imminent death, take a deep breath.  Instead of viewing stress as a health hazard, learn to make stress your friend.

Accept the continuing existence of stress.

Does your role involve perpetual deadlines, angry customers, or high-profile events? If you enjoy your role, use that pounding heart and shallow breathing to your advantage. Instead of focusing on the sweat dripping down your back (just me?), take a deep breath. Simply by changing our mindset, we can tap into the biological response to stress and use the body’s heightened response to propel us to success. Take notice of a rapid heartbeat and think of all the oxygen coursing through your body. Use the heightened level of alertness to attack the task at hand.

Raise your hand.

Stress makes you social. When in a state of heightened stress, our bodies release the hormone oxytocin which enhances empathy and encourages behavior that strengthens relationships. The body’s response is to reach out to others and seek support. When we’re stressed in the office, we often put our heads down and shut out coworkers. Next time you feel overwhelmed, let people know. In addition to responding to biological cues, talking to coworkers is the best way to get work redistributed to a manageable level.

Offer to help out.

It may seem counterintuitive, but oxytocin also encourages us to support others. When stressed, we can negate the ill effects of constricted veins by helping out in the office, at home, or in the community. Instead of shutting down connections or asking for help, consider offering it. By offering help to coworkers (and following through), you also gain coworkers who want to help you back. Or better yet, share this tip around the workplace and encourage all of your stressed coworkers to help each other out. Build a culture of community and improve health at the same time.

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