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Use Stress to Become More Productive

Stress is one of the cons of being an aspirational individual who seeks to have it all. This is exactly what Kate Matheny found. At 44, she had a high-pressure job as a public accountant and is a mom of two. She soon realized that the stress in her life needed to be addressed after she unwillingly lost weight and was losing sleep.

Stress doesn't have to be the soul-sucking thing it is for many of us. In fact, it's pretty easy to use the stress in a positive way to become more productive. Research has been done on the topic which shows that 'good stress' comes from doing meaningful work and encouragement from co-workers. All people have to do is change how they think about stress.

"Stress is paradoxical," said Alia Crum, a researcher at Columbia Business School, to the Wall Street Journal. "On one hand, it can be the thing that hurts us most. On the other, it's fundamental to psychological and physical growth. Our belief system, the lens through which we choose to view and approach stress, will shift the outcome."

Crum took this idea to a financial-services company, where employees' attitudes toward stress changed after watching a video that showed how professionals, leaders and athletes were able to overcome obstacles to be successful.

"We found a consistent shift in the mindset among participants," Crum explained, adding that participants were able to see stress as a benefit.

Matheny was able to tackle certain aspects of her stress by making a few changes. First, she took on a new job as CFO of a smaller company. She cut down her commute time and found extra time for work and kids during her off hours. Nowadays, she is sleeping better and is back to enjoying activities she loves.

"Work is still extremely stressful," she said. "But it's not personal stress."

To find the 'good stress,' the kind that gets your heart pumping with excitement, you have to do work that is meaningful to you.

"You have to have hope -- the will and the way to accomplish what you are trying to do," said Debra Nelson, a professor at Oklahoma State University. She has been studying stress for 30 years. Through her research, she has found that people in even the most stressful of jobs are able to thrive under the pressure because they believe in their work and have an optimistic outlook.

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(Photo credit: © Picture-Factory - Fotolia.com)

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