What "The Upside of Stress" Isn't And Is
First off, I want to point out that The Upside of Stress is not a time management book. It is not about how managing stress can help readers manage their time. I cherry picked material from the book to apply to my obsession with managing time.
The Upside of Stress is actually about what it says it's about in the title. The author's argument is that while stress has gotten a bad reputation over the years (and she covers why), there are actually aspects of stress that can help us function better. Thus, there are upsides to stress.
Whether or not we can take advantage of the upsides of stress may be determined by how we perceive stressful situations. McGonigal refers to ways of perceiving stress as "mindsets." She says once we identify our stress mindsets (I, personally, am pretty much full-on flight because stress is threatening), we can change them to be more useful to us.
Stress Mindsets That Might Be Useful For Managing Time
Those of us who perceive stress as a threat and want to flee from it often just drop our work and head off to more relaxing activities. The stress of work can lead to procrastination, a flight from said stress. So finding a more positive mindset sounds as if it should have a positive impact on managing time. I focused on three that McGonigal writes about.
The Challenge Mindset. This may be the most useful mindset for writers managing time while dealing with stress. There's some real action you can take with stress and time, if you can convince yourself that what you're faced with is...a challenge!...rather than a threat.
- Recognize the resources you can draw upon for this stress situation.
- Think of the stressful situation as an opportunity.
- Train for the challenge.
The Values Mindset. This could be the second most useful mindset for our purposes. According to McGonigal, dealing with stress that relates to a personal value makes the stress less burdensome, because it's more meaningful.
Of course, you have to be aware of your values in the first place. And then you have to actually be able to connect a stressor to one of them. You can see why I didn't put this mindset in first place.
The Tend-and-Befriend Mindset. This seems to me to be a mindset that can help you deal with stress, but won't be a lot of use as far as managing time is concerned. If anything, it could eat up time. Those people who see stress through a tend-and-befriend mindset deal with stress by tending to others and befriending those who can help them or others. It's a mindset that helps those feeling stress become parts of groups...like writing groups or professional organizations...that can provide them with support. The reverse of that is those groups and organizations then need support. Tend-and-befriend can make people feel better about themselves, because membership in groups "takes the toxicity out of striving," as McGonigal puts it. But membership also takes up time.
Is There A Situational Aspect To This?
I've written here before about what I call situational time management. My argument was...and is...that we can't create one schedule or time management model and expect it to work for us in every situation we find ourselves in. We need to be "constantly switching time management plans as situations change because situations change constantly." (Gauthier, Situational Time Management)
Maybe the same is true of stress mindsets. Some types of stress may lend themselves best to a challenge mindset, some to a values mindset, and some to a tend-and-befriend mindset. Some certainly require a threat/fight-or-flight mindset. Being able to identify the correct mindset and switch to it may be the first step toward managing time during stressful experiences.