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Embracing Stress: Transforming Anxiety into Positive Energy

Woman Embracing Peace after getting anxiety treatment
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Embracing Stress: Transforming Anxiety into Positive Energy

Stress is an unavoidable part of our daily lives. From tight deadlines and important presentations to personal challenges, stress can often feel all-consuming. But what if we could change our perspective on stress? By embracing stress and shifting our mindset from anxiety to excitement, we can turn stress into a powerful motivator. 


Here are a few ways to shift the way you relate to stress.

Rethinking Stress: The Tend and Befriend Approach


Most of us are familiar with the “fight-flight- freeze” response, a concept introduced by Walter Cannon in the early 1900s to describe our body’s automatic reaction to perceived threats. Psychologist Shelley Taylor proposed a way to manage this stress response: the “tend-and-befriend” approach.


This response, particularly noted among women, involves nurturing behaviors and seeking social support to handle stress (Taylor et al., 2000). This approach evolved from survival needs, especially for women who historically cared for children and relied on social networks for protection. We often isolate and become irritable or aggressive when stressed. Instead of engaging in these behaviours which often exacerbate our symptoms, work to create nurturing bonds with others and form alliances. We are social beings and social engagement is a significant indicator of physical and mental health, so use these connections to your advantage!

The Science of Stress Reappraisal


How we view stress can significantly influence its impact on us. Studies have shown that seeing stress as a challenge rather than a threat leads to better health, improved performance, and greater life satisfaction (Crum, Salovey, & Achor, 2013). This mindset shift enables us to channel the energy from stress positively.


When we perceive stress as something we can tackle or learn from, our bodies respond more resiliently. This can reduce the harmful effects of stress hormones and promote a healthier outlook on life.


Use self-talk to shift your perspective. Coach yourself by using messaging such as: 


  • I can learn from this experience.
  • I will grow and change from this challenge.
  • I am strong and can take this on!

Turning Anxiety into Excitement


Interestingly, anxiety and excitement are physiologically similar, both involve increased heart rate and heightened arousal. Rather than trying to calm down when feeling anxious, it can be more effective to redirect that energy into excitement.

Research by Alison Wood Brooks at Harvard Business School found that people who reframed their anxiety as excitement performed better in stressful situations. Participants who said, “I am excited” before giving a speech, taking a test, or singing karaoke felt more confident and performed better (Brooks, 2014). This is because it’s easier to transition from one high-energy state to another than to a low-energy state like calmness.


This approach uses the concept of “arousal congruence.” Since both anxiety and excitement are high-arousal states, shifting between them is more manageable. By telling ourselves we are excited, we harness the existing physiological arousal, which can help improve performance and reduce feelings of dread.

Practical Strategies for Befriending Stress

  1. Mindful Awareness and Acceptance: Mindfulness encourages us to stay present and focused on the current moment. Practices such as meditation and deep breathing increase our awareness of stress and promote acceptance without judgment. Studies show that mindfulness can significantly reduce anxiety and improve stress responses (Hoge et al., 2013). By accepting stress as a natural part of life, we can reduce its grip on us.

  2. Building Strong Social Connections: Social connections offer emotional support, practical help, and a sense of belonging. Research indicates that discussing our stressors with friends or family can provide new perspectives and solutions we might not have considered. Building and maintaining these relationships is a critical part of the tend-and-befriend response. By surrounding ourselves with supportive individuals, we feel a sense of security and belonging, which then contributes to our overall well-being.

  3. Positive Self-Talk and Reappraisal: Positive self-talk can alter our perception of stressful situations. By changing our internal dialogue, we can transform our experience of stress. Instead of thinking, “I’m so anxious about this presentation,” try saying, “I’m excited to share my ideas.” By focusing on potential positive outcomes rather than negative possibilities, we can lessen feelings of fear and anxiety. This shift in thinking can be practiced and improved over time, leading to more effective stress management.

  4. Staying Active: Exercise not only enhances physical health but also boosts mental well-being. Engaging in regular physical activity can provide a break from stressors, improve sleep, and elevate overall mood. It’s a powerful tool for managing stress and enhancing quality of life.

  5. Engaging in Purposeful Activities: Purposeful activities help us focus on something greater than ourselves, providing perspective and reducing the intensity of stress. Whether it’s volunteering, hobbies, or creative projects, these activities can offer a sense of achievement and fulfillment, contributing to overall life satisfaction.

Additional Techniques to Manage Stress

  1. Sleep Hygiene: Ensuring you get enough quality sleep is crucial for stress management. Poor sleep can worsen stress and reduce your ability to cope effectively. Establish a regular sleep routine, avoid caffeine and electronics before bedtime, and create a restful environment to improve sleep quality.

  2. Healthy Nutrition: What we eat significantly impacts how we feel. A balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and whole grains can help stabilize mood and energy levels. Avoid excessive sugar and processed foods, which can lead to energy crashes and increased stress. A diverse and healthy microbiome improves both physical and mental health. 

  3. Time Management: Efficiently managing your time can reduce stress by helping you feel more in control. Prioritize tasks, set realistic goals, and take regular breaks to avoid burnout. Using tools like calendars and to-do lists can keep you organized and focused.

  4. Professional Help: Sometimes, managing stress on your own can be overwhelming. Seeking help from a psychologist or counselor can provide support and strategies tailored to your specific needs. For those seeking anxiety therapy in Toronto or anxiety treatment in Toronto, finding the best anxiety therapist in Toronto or visiting an anxiety disorder treatment center can offer a safe space to explore your stressors and develop effective coping mechanisms.

Conclusion: Embracing Stress as an Ally


Changing our relationship with stress involves recognizing and learning to use it to our advantage. By tending and befriending stress and reframing anxiety as excitement, we can transform stress from foe to friend. This mindset shift, combined with practical strategies like mindfulness, social support, positive self-talk, physical activity, and purposeful engagement, can empower us to thrive in all situations, including stressful ones.


Remember, stress doesn’t have to be negative. It can be a source of energy, motivation, and growth. By embracing a new relationship with stress, we can navigate life’s challenges more effectively and become stronger and more resilient.


For those in need of professional support, consider anxiety therapy or finding the best anxiety therapist in Toronto to guide you through your journey. We can help you overcome this!


1407 Yonge Street, Unit 406
Toronto, Ontario
M4T 1Y7


Phone:  416.588.7546



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