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The Secret Benefit of Stress

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The Fellowship of Turmoil

Many of us are feeling the pinch of stress or its sinister sibling, anxiety. Economic and international pressures are far from ideal. Such uncertainty can be particularly daunting, especially if we begin to ponder the potential impact of national or global situations on our individual lives.

In spite—or because—of us having no direct influence over various things in life, we might dread their seemingly imminent consequences. Stress from things beyond our control can squeeze us as it did protagonist Frodo Baggins in Tolkien’s classic The Lord of the Rings. Not unlike Frodo’s desire to be rid of his own stressful predicament, popular belief advocates for the avoidance and dismissal of anxiety, bemoaning its negative implications. But clinical psychologist Tracy Dennis-Tiwary illuminates the hidden merits of anxiety in this podcast with leadership consultant Simon Sinek.

The argument for perpetual positivity, though well-intentioned, can sometimes be little more than gilded toxicity. As one does not simply walk into Mordor, one cannot simply sustain a façade of positivity. Forced positivity, like feigned positivity, demands that we ignore half of our emotions—half of ourselves. Acknowledging only pleasant feelings cripples our ability to manage more complicated—and less enjoyable—feelings.

In this TED Talk, psychologist Kelly McGonigal asserts that to successfully manage stress, we must stop seeing it as an enemy. Stress, like the discomfort of a rigorous gym workout, prepares us for challenges. It expands our limits, as it did for the characters of Tolkien’s epic, thrusting them into experiences and even friendships they never would have imagined.

Therein lurks the greatest benefit of stress, McGonigal further delineates. Stress can be both friend and fulcrum, giving fresh perspective to the age-old idiom of “misery loves company.” As stress forged the unlikely bonds in Tolkien’s Fellowship of the Ring, so too does it encourage fellowships of our own. In times of challenge, we instinctively lean on each other for support and comfort.

When facing the stormy clouds of stress, consider the hidden vistas lurking beyond. Venture into the SurePeople Knowledge Center for tactics by which to better glimpse the horizon over the hill. Like the hobbits of the Shire, we all have the power to shape our future.

“But in the end, it’s only a passing thing, this shadow. Even darkness must pass. A new day will come. And when the sun shines, it’ll shine out the clearer.”
― John Ronald Reuel Tolkien

Do you have an idea you want to share with an empowered community of self-aware professionals? If you’d like to contribute an idea or article to ‘In The Flow of Work’ on the Evolve blog, just send us a message or submit a post to our Head of Content, Adam Schneider

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