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10 Ways to Use Stress to Your Advantage Stress is how nature tells us we need to take action.

By Sherrie Campbell Edited by Dan Bova

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Caiaimage/Trevor Adeline | Getty Images

Most of us feel powerless to stress because we interpret our stress to be coming from sources outside of us. Whatever is outside of us may be cause for our stress, but it is not the source. We make the mistake of forgetting to look inside of ourselves as the source of our own stress. Instead we project all of our emotions onto something or someone outside of us and start blame shifting.

If we have the power to project negatively, then we must have equal power to project for something positive. We are absolutely capable of outsmarting our stress by using its energy to propel us forward. This is how we transmute our stress into the secret behind our success. Stress may feel bad, but we must trust that its intention is good.

Related: I Started Saying 'No' to These 6 Things. My Life and My Business Got a Lot Better.

1. Develop your self-awareness.

To benefit from stress, it is critical we view its presence as an on-going attitude or philosophy about our lives and careers that we create for ourselves. When we stop expecting stress to go away and choose to learn to work with it, we start viewing our stress as the key to opening our eyes to where we need to execute or pull our weight more effectively. Stress always exposes our vulnerabilities or the areas where we lack in knowledge and insight. This is an undeniable gift. When our vulnerabilities are exposed, we are given direction on where we're most in need of self-improvement.

2. Get creative.

Stress is generated from what is unpredictable. Although most of us crave the familiar, life would not be life without the excitement of what we cannot foresee or predict. We can either allow stress to make us more controlling and rigid, or we can allow it to make us look at our lives like an artist would a blank canvas. Instead of stressing over making a living, we must choose to focus on the art of living a successful life. Stress is the triggering agent which keeps us on our toes. How can we expect to be an expert in our industry if we're not functioning on the cutting edges of our field? We have more control when we can use our stress creatively. The adrenalized energy created by the stress of what is unpredictable can be used for innovation, excitement and risk taking. The more creative we are, often the more successful.

Related: You Can Motivate Yourself to Start Again After a Business Failure

4. Examine and act on priorities.

Success is always about priorities. If we want to know what tasks to put first, our stress-response will bring clarity to what needs our urgent attention and what can be put off until our more stressful priorities have been completed. Knowing our priorities and attacking them as they arise provides us a sense of agency over our workload. Once we accomplish our more urgent stressors, not only do we feel a sense of relief, but even more importantly, we feel a deep sense of accomplishment. Nothing is more useful for inspiring us to keep grinding than feelings of accomplishment.

5. Find the opportunities.

Stress, if used effectively, signifies increased opportunity. If we are stressing, there is a challenge at hand that we must use to inspire us to rise-up, change direction, increase our knowledge, try something new or move beyond a failure to create a new opportunity. No matter what challenge stands in front of us at any given time, the stress to come from it can be used as our competitor. We can succumb to our competitor, or we can beat it. When we look for possibilities, the path forward becomes instantly clear.

6. Increase your intelligence.

Stress has proven to enhance cognition and improve specific aspects of our intelligence. Our fight-or flight response releases certain chemicals which immediately increase our ability to focus on what is needed right now. When we're under this type of pressure we show, not only increased focus, but also an increase in mental prowess in the areas of academic or professional capacities. Stress increases our ability to recall details and memories, which is helpful when placed in critical situations where our knowledge and problem-solving skills are being called upon. We can count on our stress to make us smarter in the pressured moments when we need it most.

Related: 10 Simple Daily Practices That Will Make You Happier

7. Welcome optimal frustration.

We are the happiest and the most successful when under the pressures of optimal levels of frustration. The most effective way any of us evolve in our knowledge, skill or talent is to be placed in tasks or situations which challenge us. Success should be a struggle. We should expect nothing less. Learn to enjoy the journey because in reality the struggle is where all the joy is. When we continually find our way through the unknowns of life, we realize that we were designed to thrive. We must allow our struggles to bring us inspiration not desperation. There would be nothing to gain in life, if we didn't have to struggle and work hard to achieve it.

8. Develop strategy.

Stress has the intention to moving us through events where we most deeply question if we have what it takes to overcome them. We are never more innovative than when we are stressed because we will do almost anything to relieve the pressure without creating more. If we react impulsively to stress, we create more stress for ourselves and even bigger problems to clean up. To use our stress effectively, we must slow down, and think through the best strategies to mitigate staying stuck and ensure our movement forward. The more strategy we come to learn and use, the more equipped we are for future challenges and increased success.

Related: 12 Scientifically Proven Ways to Reinvent Yourself

9. Involve others.

When stress becomes too much it forces us to reach out for the help, aid, advice and brainstorming. Successful people collaborate. They never allow themselves to get stuck under the pressure of having to be the person with all the answers. When we reach out and involve others in our challenges, not only do we make it through them more quickly and efficiently, but we also learn how other people problem-solve. This is an invaluable gift that teaches us new ways to move through problems we never would have thought of on our own. Further, we are much less likely to experience burnout when we share our pressures.

10. Develop a positive mindset.

Nothing hijacks success more than a negative mindset provoked by the stressful situations we encounter. If we want to make great use of stress, we must use our "stress-signals" as reminders to start actively choosing a positive mindset before we have too much time to get negative about what we're experiencing. We can use our stress for positive or negative, it is up to us. How we respond to anything is a choice. There are no positive rewards to come from a negative or defeatist mindset. For this reason, the minute we experience feelings of stress, we must let this alert us to activate our positive beliefs by working diligently to focus on all possible solutions to our problem.

Related: 5 Powerful Ways to Become Your Best Self

Sherrie Campbell

Psychologist, Author, Speaker

Sherrie Campbell is a psychologist in Yorba Linda, Calif., with two decades of clinical training and experience in providing counseling and psychotherapy services. She is the author of Loving Yourself: The Mastery of Being Your Own Person.   

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