In the modern world, stress has become a way of life. People are stressed about work, finances, family responsibilities and the state of the world. This stress has real consequences. Stress is linked to an increased risk of heart disease, stroke and diabetes, as well as sleep problems, substance abuse, and poor mental health.

Yet, under the right conditions, stressful situations such as a thorny problem at work or a physical challenge such as a marathon will inspire us to grow, achieve, and be our best selves. A key difference between negative stress that harms us and positive stress that inspires us to achieve is our mindset.

One way to shift your mindset is to think about “get to” rather than “have to”. This simple change helps develop your sense of gratitude. For example, instead of:

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  • “I have to go to work and finish that project,'' think “I get to work on a really cool problem at work.”
  • “I have to make dinner,'' think “I get to nourish my children.”
  • “I have to work out,'' think “I get to go out in the fresh air and run around.”

It might feel a bit cheesy at first, but if you change your thinking from “have to” to “get to,” you’ll soon feel more excited to tackle your day than you thought possible.

Another helpful switch is to think of stress as a challenge, rather than a hardship. For example, imagine running for 135 miles across California’s Death Valley. If you are like most people, that sounds awful. Yet, every year, around 90 people do it as part of the Badwater Ultramarathon. Why do they do it? Because the challenge of doing something impossible is irresistible to them. They embrace the chance to prove themselves in the face of difficulties.

You can channel this attitude the next time you are stressed about any task you face. Think of your task as a challenge and rise to meet it. 

Watch for our next article, in which we’ll discuss tips for changing your mindset about exercise.