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Making Friends with Stress


Edited by Simon Whitby

Published by Resilience


1. Make Friends With Stress

2. Mental Fitness Mindset

3. 15 Quick Ideas

4. Welcome to Mask UK

5. Understanding Mental Illness

6. Foundation Of Mental Health


Poorly managed stress undermines our resilience and is one of the biggest risk factor for mental illness.

Yet while stress is often viewed in purely negatives terms, new research suggests that our attitude towards stress can actually impact the degree to which we are affected by it.


In the modern world, stress is everywhere. The feelings of stress are hard to avoid, from unexpected outside events that happen to us to distressing internal thoughts.

The term stress itself refers to our body's reaction to stimulus or change.

It is often considered an evolutionary bug of being human that we need to avoid or eliminate. Instead, we should think of it as an evolutionary feature that helps us meet life's challenges with energy and resolve.

Some stress is good. Without it, we would struggle to know what to care about and have little motivation to achieve our goals.

Nevertheless, most people experience stress as an uncomfortable feeling. We get shaky hands, sweaty palms, brain fog, and notice our hearts beating out of our chests.

Depending on the origin, stress can be acute or chronic. Unlike acute stressors that come and go, chronic stress is when we allow physical and psychological stress to build up without recovery.

Chronic stress is the 'bad stress' you hear about that is associated with heart attacks, diabetes and burnout. Early signs include sleep problems, irritability or difficulty focusing.


In controlled conditions, with adequate recovery, stress makes us stronger.

Going for a run or subjecting our muscles to a workout at the gym is a form of stress. Recovering for a couple of days before going back to the gym allows us to grow stronger.

To avoid acute stesses from turning into chronic stress, we need to avoid periods og heightened pressure without adequate recovery.

We can do this by both maintaining a stable foundation of Mental Fitness habits and actively recovering from acute stressors as they occur.

The problem is, most people are not very good at lisening to and acting on the messages that stress is trying to tell us. Because it feels bad, we ignore it, and allow chronic stress to accumulate.

When we start to feel overwhelmed by our responsibilities, somewhat counterintuitely, we abandon the much-needed foundations of self-care that support our resilience and subsequently our ability to cope.

Of course, sometimes life happens. Last minute deadlines and sick kids make it simply impossible to recover from stress to the extent we would like at times.

While we often can’t change the level of stress we experience, we can try to change the degree to which we are impacted by it.

Rather than avoiding stress together, we can get better at being stressed.


When we take the ‘avoid-at-all-costs’ approach to stress management, we often miss the opportunity to reinterpret stress in ways that are empowering rather than overwhelming.

Recent findings from psychologist Kelly M,cGonigal suggest that we can form a new mindset towards stress by choosing to frame a stressful event as a challenge rather than a threat.

This entails replacing the false belief that life shouldn’t be stressful or that you are doing something wrong if you do feel stressed. Stress is a signal, she says, that we can harness and learn to use in our favour.

Instead of cursing stress as an unwanted by-product of modern life, we can learn to re-interpret the physical and psychological signs of stress as enablers that help us deal with our challenges.

A rapid heart rate and butterflies in the stomach are not signs that prove we are failing. Instead, they are signs that our bodies and brains are preparing for action!

When we notice ourselves becoming overwhelmed, we can choose to find the meaning and purpose in our stress by reflecting on why it is worth living with.

We get stressed about things that matter. Therefore, it can serve as a reminder to be grateful that we have purposeful and meaningful goals worth pursuing.

Remember, feelings aren’t facts. The signs of stress simply shout louder than our deeply-held values and goals.


Reflect: Think about something you’ve found stressful or worrisome recently. How might you be able to reframe it as a challenge, an enabler or something meaningful; something that serves your values and goals?

Plan: When planning going forward, and especially if you’re feeling overwhelmed with deadlines or exams, ignore the temptation to overlook stress recovery. Block some time to slow down, exercise, or connect with others. Stay on top of your healthy habits, even when you feel rushed. You’ll return to task feeling energised and refreshed.

Act: Next time you’re stressed and feel uncomfortable sensations coming up, instead of thinking ‘I can’t handle this’, think ‘I care about this’. Try to make it a regular habit.

© These documents are for therapy purposes only and must not be commercially exploited.