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3 ways to get stress working for you

Take advantage of stress to improve your life.
By Firas Kittaneh |

We have all had times when we scrambled at the last minute to finish an assignment for work or burned the midnight oil to complete a final paper for a class. As the deadline approaches, our hearts beat faster, our palms begin to sweat, and we feel uneasy, worried and even fearful. Stressful situations induce anxiety.



Feeling acutely anxious too often may require treatment but occasionally feeling anxious and stressed out is completely normal. Sitting with anxiety and stress may feel uncomfortable, but it is also necessary for motivation, change and advancement.


Here are three ways to harness the power of anxiety and stress to increase your productivity and make forward movements in your life.



1. Set several small, achievable goals.

Dopamine has been shown to have the added effect of inducing motivation. Once you actually reach your objectives, your body gives you a generous boost of dopamine so you feel accomplished, rewarded and just plain good.


To continue experiencing that pleasurable feeling, create a chain of dopamine releases when feeling anxious or stressed. First, set many small, achievable goals for yourself before you begin to work. Once you complete the first goal on your list, you will feel amazing and, more importantly, motivated to work on the next goal. Before you know it, your productivity will be through the roof, and you’ve just tricked yourself into accomplishing much more than you thought possible.



Related: Forget big goals. Take baby steps for small, daily wins.



2. Change your relationship to stress.

When we hear about stress in the news, it is often in the context of reducing or coping with stress. Instead of teaching us to take advantage of stress and anxiety to improve our lives, the media has taught us to view stress as a horrible disease that should be eliminated. However, in a study conducted by Yale University, perceiving stress as a positive force in your life may actually lead you to perform better at work or school.



Next time you find yourself overwhelmed, wishing that your stress would just go away, try practicing radical acceptance on your anxiety-triggering situation and start changing your relationship to stress.


Related: How successful people deal with stress


3. Leave problems requiring creative solutions for last.

When your to-do list is overflowing with tasks to be completed, it is easy to become paralyzed by inaction. In situations like these, Todd Kashdan, professor of psychology at George Mason University, suggests utilizing mindlessness and anxiety to get the wheels turning.


He suggests that your best ideas come out while doing tasks that are productive yet don’t require intense concentration. He then continues, “In situations when danger is a possibility but the cues might be obscure, complicated or uncertain, anxiety prevails over positivity. In such cases, anxious people quickly discover solutions.”


When you don’t know where to start with your to-do list, try prioritizing your workload based on how much creativity is required for each task, starting with the most mindless activities. These could be anything from completing administrative duties to filling out paperwork. Then, move on to tasks that need a bit more attention and resourcefulness, like organizing your desk or sending important emails.



Last, when your anxiety levels are at their peak, tackle the projects requiring the most creativity and concentration, like creating innovative solutions to problems at work or developing proposals for new projects to work on. You may have come up with some great ideas while completing the mindless assignments! By organizing your work schedule based on the beneficial side effects of anxiety and stress, you will set yourself up for success.


Related: How you're killing your own creativity (Infographic)


Copyright 2015 Entrepreneur Media, Inc. All rights reserved.
This article originally appeared on Minor edits have been done by the editor.


Photos from Flickr (Concierge Virtual) and Pixabay  

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