Stress seems to never let go away. Wouldn’t it be nice to get a vacation from it? Put it on hold for a while? For a day, maybe? Stress can essentially follow you everywhere; it can morph itself into various types and entities, and it can enter different stages and periods in your life. Even when things are going well for you, stress plays a role as you try to maintain your momentum and success. During the slumps and lows in life, stress is like a lingering burden made up of recurring thoughts that don’t go away, and that physical reminder made up of ongoing tension. It may be in the chest or in the pit of your stomach.
You’ve likely read and heard many times about the source of stress lying in your own perceptions of reality. This is both a freeing and frustrating concept because although we have a lot of control over our stress levels, it’s not always so easy to let things go and manage issues with patience and grace.
However, positive psychology has provided us with a refreshing perspective on stress—and mostly on how we see ourselves as we cope with hardships, challenges, change, losses, and failure. According to positive psychology theory, we can find many answers by looking at our personal strengths. The idea is that during tough times—during our greatest moments of stress, or even just the everyday stressors—our thinking can get clouded and our perception of ourselves can turn a bit negative. We might look at ourselves and wonder what we should be doing differently, where are we going wrong, and what should we change about ourselves or our actions? We look at our stress as if we need to undo something and blame ourselves for our inaction or incompetence. Although it can be good to look at our errors, admit to our faults, and make positive changes, this line of thinking can also function to drain us emotionally—not to mention, it can impact self-esteem during stressful times, precisely when you need a positive view of ourselves most.
An alternative is taking a strengths-based approach. This perspective is challenging at first because we are simply not “trained” to think this way. We are taught from a young age to react to failure with negativity, with self-blame, or with avoidance.
A strengths-based approach means identifying your personal strengths and positive qualities and using these characteristics to solve problems and face stressors. According to positive psychology, you have it in you—you have what it takes and more—to problem-solve and surpass the hardships and roadblocks that life brings. But you must acknowledge the strengths you have to achieve this. When stressors hit, we often look to what needs to be changed; to all the things we’re doing wrong, and to the areas where we messed up or dropped the ball. This way of thinking can function as an energy sucker, can make stress worse, and can leave us with consequences like depression and anxiety. Instead, looking at stress from a positive psychology lens will enable you to utilize and build upon the strengths you have right now—the qualities you possess that make you strong and capable to face any problem that comes your way.
What Stress & Positive Psychology Means Right Now
The present, uncertain times have introduced a new set of stressors that many of us have never experienced—or imagined—before. You would think that staying home and working from home would serve to reduce some stress in our lives, but the reality is that stress has this mysterious omnipresence, following us everywhere—that is, if we allow it. Now more than ever, it is critical to bring your awareness of your personal strengths to the forefront of your thoughts and actions. Especially when life gets hard and possibilities for better times appear grim, focus on your strengths.
Join the conversation: What are you good at? What can you do with the resources you have right now? How can you push the limitations you see in front of you? What is one, a small step forward you can take today?
Apply your strengths and uncover the great source of resilience you have.