CALS Wellness Committee tip: Convert “stress” into “challenge” via a mindset makeover

Stress is “a state of tension resulting from demanding circumstances.” People often blame stress when their performance is off. (“John’s stressed over the new project.”)

Challenge, on the other hand, is used “to stimulate by presenting with difficulties.” The common denominator—demanding circumstances—is quite similar, but the mental approach differs. (“Jessie wants a job that challenges her.”)

This does not mean stress isn’t real (and that you shouldn’t reach out for help if you’re continually feeling stressed). Scientifically speaking, change causes stress that you can view as either a challenge or a threat, based largely on whether or not you believe you have the resources to meet the new demand.

So maybe it’s time to start envisioning work-related stressors as challenges. This approach can help you succeed instead of failing before you start.

Review the following situations. Which response leaves you feeling powerless? Which might help you “rise to the occasion”?

  • You get a new quick turnaround project. Do you think:
    • (stress response)  “I’ll never get this done in time” or
    • (challenge response)  “Let’s see if I can get this done in time!”
  • You’re asked to lead a contentious meeting. Do you think:
    • (stress response)  “No one ever listens to me” or
    • (challenge response)  “How can I present this so it’s interesting?”
  • Your team gets asked to temporarily step up production. Do you think
    • (stress response)  “We’ll never be able to produce all these” or
    • (challenge response)  “How might we get all these items completed?”

It takes practice to develop a mind-set that can view stress as a challenge—and challenging your self-talk doesn’t guarantee success. But if you seek the motivation of challenge rather than the weight of stress more often, you’ll most likely succeed more often, too.

Note: This article was taken from the November Workplace Well-being Newsletter.