1: Super Bowl XLIX. Closing seconds…
The Seattle Seahawks have the ball on the one-yard line. All they need to do is punch it in to score the winning touchdown. Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll calls for a passing play. The pass is intercepted.The Seahawks lose. Some sportswriters call it one of the worst calls in league history.
But that’s not how Pete Carroll chose to see it. A few months afterward, he told Sports Illustrated, “It’s been thrilling to experience this. It really has!” He added, “You pour everything in your life into something and—it goes right, sometimes it goes wrong—it’s in you. It becomes a part of you. I’m not going to ignore it. I’m going to face it. And when it bubbles up, I’m going to think about it and get on with it. And use it. Use it!”
There’s yet another level: transforming or reappraising stress from a threat into a challenge. Instead of “Name it to tame it,” we will look at the power of “Name it to savor it.”
Reappraisal is a process where we re-frame how we view a situation. By reappraising our triggers, we “can take the teeth out of their threat, broaden [our] view, and energize ourselves to seize opportunities, learn, grow, and respond more effectively in challenging situations,” Danny writes. “Studies also show that individuals who use reappraisal report fewer negative emotions, better social functioning, and greater psychological well-being.”
When we bring “mindful awareness” to our threat response, we “can learn how to leverage [our] stress energy as a resource and slingshot it into the other two responses of challenge and tend-and-befriend,” Danny writes.
Our “challenge-response” allows us to step into our challenges, seek creative solutions, and embrace the stressful situation as an opportunity for growth and learning. Our “tend-and-befriend response” encourages us to seek out family, friends, and colleagues for support and collaboration.
2: “Triggers of stress may be both physical and psychological,” Danny writes. “Physical stressors include exposure to heat and cold, hunger, thirst, lack of sleep, or physical danger.” Psychological triggers often involve perceived threats. What David Rock calls SCARF, which stands for:
o Threats to Status, which challenge our place in the social hierarchy and the deeper fears about resources we may have access to
o Threats to Certainty, which invoke the fear of “what if” and all the bad things that could happen
o Threats to Autonomy, which raise the fear of losing control
o Threats to Relatedness, which relate to the fear of being disconnected from the safety and security within our tribe
o Threats to Fairness, which relate to being triggered when we or others are unjustly treated
3: When stressful situations occur, however, we are not a prisoner to our reactions. We can choose to view stress as energy that helps us focus on what matters most. Kelly McGonigal, a professor at Stanford University and the author of The Upside of Stress, writes: “Stress is what arises when something you care about is at stake.”
When we re-frame how we view stress, we release ourselves from being “stressed about being stressed.” Doing so allows us to think in a more inspired way, connect with others, and develop more creative responses. “The net result,” Danny writes, “is greater focus, increased energy use, increased performance, and better effect on [our] health.”
“It is our mindset about stress—whether we see it as debilitating or enhancing—that determines whether it depletes or energizes us,” Danny writes.
How can we put these ideas to work in our lives? Our goal changes from “managing stress” to capitalizing on it:
o We acknowledge when we are experiencing stress.
o We choose to welcome stress as a response to something we care about.
o We capitalize on the energy generated to move towards our goal.
Reflection: Think about a stressful situation where I transformed stress into energy to focus on my desired outcome.
Action: Watch Kelly McGonigal’s TED talk on “How to Make Stress Your Friend.”