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How project managers can turn stress into their ally

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Stress is inevitable in project management. Whether it’s due to tight deadlines, changing requirements, budget constraints, or team conflicts, project managers face various challenges that can trigger stress responses. However, not all stress is bad. In fact, some stress can be beneficial for your performance, health and well-being. The key is to adopt a Stress-Is-Enhancing Mindset, which is the belief that stress can have positive effects on your outcomes and abilities. 

In this blog post, we will explore the concept of a Stress-Is-Enhancing Mindset, its benefits for project managers and some tips on how to cultivate it. 

What is a Stress-Is-Enhancing Mindset? 

In an article by Alia Crum, an assistant professor of psychology at Stanford, she describes a Stress-Is-Enhancing Mindset as the overarching belief that stress can be beneficial for cognitive, psychological, affective and hormonal outcomes. Individuals who hold a Stress-Is-Enhancing Mindset see daily life stressors as challenges for which they have adequate resources to meet the expected demands. They believe that experiencing stress facilitates learning and growth, enhances performance and productivity, and improves health and vitality. 

According to research conducted by Stanford Mind & Body Lab, your mindset can influence how you cope with stress, how you perceive your abilities and how you perform under pressure. One of the studies found that employees who viewed stress as enhancing were more engaged, satisfied and productive at work than those who viewed stress as debilitating. 

Why is a Stress-Is-Enhancing Mindset beneficial for project managers? 

Project managers can benefit from adopting a Stress-Is-Enhancing Mindset in several ways. Here are some of the advantages: 

  • Improved performance and productivity: viewing stress as enhancing can help you focus on the positive aspects of your work, such as the opportunity to learn new skills, achieve your goals and contribute to your organisation. This can boost your motivation, creativity and efficiency, as well as your ability to solve problems, make decisions and collaborate with others. Additionally, viewing stress as enhancing can help you activate the physiological stress response, which can enhance your alertness, energy and resilience. 
  • Enhanced health and well-being: viewing stress as enhancing can help you cope with stress in adaptive ways, such as seeking social support, engaging in physical activity and practising mindfulness. These coping strategies can help you reduce the negative effects of stress on your body and mind, such as inflammation, blood pressure and cortisol levels.  
  • Increased growth and development: viewing stress as enhancing can help you embrace challenges as opportunities for growth and development. This can help you expand your comfort zone, acquire new knowledge and skills and discover new aspects of yourself.  

How to cultivate a Stress-Is-Enhancing Mindset? 

Cultivating this positive mindset is not about denying or ignoring the reality of stress but rather about reframing stress as a positive and useful force that can help you achieve your objectives and aspirations. Here are some tips on how to cultivate a Stress-Is-Enhancing Mindset: 

  • Recognise that stress is a natural and inevitable part of any project and that it can be a source of motivation, learning and growth. Instead of trying to avoid or suppress stress, acknowledge it, and embrace it as a sign of your engagement and commitment to the project. 
  • Identify the underlying values and goals that are driving your stress. Ask yourself why you care about the project and what you hope to achieve or contribute. Remind yourself of the purpose and meaning behind your work and how it aligns with your personal or professional vision. 
  • Seek support and feedback from your team members, colleagues, mentors, or other sources of social support. Share your stressors and concerns with them, and ask for their advice, guidance, or encouragement. Learn from their experiences and perspectives, and appreciate their contributions and recognition. Build a sense of camaraderie and collaboration with your team and celebrate your achievements together. 
  • Integrate stress-reflection exercises into your project management routines. This could involve periodic team sessions where individuals identify their stress triggers and explore the values and purposes driving those stressors. 

A synergy between two mindsets 

Another advantage of adopting a Stress-Is-Enhancing Mindset is its ability to support the development of a Growth Mindset, which is the belief that our abilities and intelligence can be improved over time with effort and feedback. These two mindsets can help project managers to: 

  • View challenges and problems as opportunities to learn and improve, rather than as threats or failures. 
  • Embrace the physiological and psychological changes that stress brings, such as increased heart rate, adrenaline, and focus, as signs that they are ready to face the situation and perform well. 
  • Seek and accept constructive feedback from stakeholders, team members, and mentors, and use it to enhance their skills and knowledge. 
  • Celebrate their achievements and progress and acknowledge the role of stress in helping them to reach their goals. By adopting a Stress-Is-Enhancing Mindset and a Growth Mindset, project managers can become more resilient, adaptable and confident in their potential to overcome obstacles and deliver successful projects. 


You cannot escape stress in project management, but it doesn't have to be detrimental. By adopting a Stress-Is-Enhancing Mindset, you can transform stress from a burden to a blessing and use it to improve your performance, health and well-being. It can also assist you in developing a Growth Mindset which will better equip you to cope with challenges, learn from feedback and achieve your goals.  


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