How to Use Your Strengths Under Stress
While a pandemic is certainly a unique time, crises and stress is far from unusual. No matter what challenges we face, when we lean into them, our strengths become our backbone.
Stress is a part of life. Most often, we don’t see it coming, yet our response to each hard season is predictable - we instinctively become a more highlighted version of who we already are. While we might normally keep “us” buried somewhere below the surface, under stress, it escapes.
Our truest self bubbles to the surface. As much as we try to squash or ignore it, we can’t. Our natural talents, strengths, and abilities yearn to be freed. They long to help.
If you make space for them to breathe, they bring you greater clarity, peace, and direction. If you fight them, they reflect their “shadow side” by negatively impacting your physical, emotional, and spiritual health.
So, how do you make room for your strengths to leak well?
Here are 3 ways to use your strengths under stress:
- Know Your Strengths: You can’t use your strengths if you can’t identify them. The best assessment I’ve found to identify strengths is Clifton Strengths (formerly StrengthsFinder). It’s psychometrically sound and research driven, which matters to me as a trained counselor and is why I became a Certified Strengths Coach. You can buy StrengthsFinder 2.0 on Amazon or you can purchase an online code directly through Gallup to take the assessment immediately (I make no profit off of this).
- Recognize Your Superpowers: Whether you know it or not, you’ve had superpowers all of your life. Maybe not the see-through-the-walls, flying kind of superpowers you’ve wished for, but underlying talents you’ve been using in every stressful situation you’ve faced in the past. Think back to the last time you faced a challenging situation. How did you get through it? What did you do to move forward when you felt stuck? These are clues to your natural talents. Often, we are so close to how we just naturally “are” that we don’t see how uniquely adept we are at moving through life. Once you know your strengths, you can put words to your superpowers.
- Target Your Strengths: Now it’s time to aim and fire those strengths! Choose the one that feels most like you – the one you read and thought “that’s me!” Decide how that strength can help you in your current season of life. Narrow your action step by picking a single sentence in your Strength description and identify a current problem you can tackle with that superpower. Commit to using that single strength every day to gain more clarity, peace, and direction.
Additional Help to Use Your Strengths Under Stress
To give you additional help and more specific action steps, I’ve recorded a series of videos to give you a quick glance at your strengths. In these short, 3-minute or less videos, I share a little about each of the 34 Clifton Strengths.
Each video gives you a quick synopsis of your strengths "power and edge" and how to apply them for your benefit, your family’s benefit, and your coworker’s/team’s benefit. Your talents are meant to be shared and we need you now more than ever.
So, even if the particular strength isn’t yours, I’d encourage you to watch them all. Someone you know likely has the strength, and if it’s a child, spouse, co-worker, or boss, this is an ideal time to celebrate their strengths too!
Here's a preview of ACHIEVER®:
The Risk of Unharnessed Strengths
When strengths aren’t identified and focused, they often create relational disharmony. During times of stress, the risk of under or over-using your strengths is particularly high. They mask themselves as “weaknesses” or “idiosyncrasies” or “personality flaws.”
They’re the things that drive us nuts about one another.
During this season of sheltering at home for so many, we are likely to have less patience, a more critical spirit, and less tolerance for the people who surround us… Every. Single. Day.
By understanding our strengths and the strengths of our family and co-workers, we reset our filter. Understanding brings us empathy. We offer a bigger dose of grace as we see those we love using their strengths well and not-so-well some days. We understand why we do the things we do and we have the toolbox to adapt when things are off-track.
Moving Into the Future
Strengths don’t fix everything. But during times of stress, they can be the catalyst to drive us forward.
When we lack stability, they give us our backbone. When we lack momentum, we can lean into them to push ahead. When we’re tempted to focus on what’s wrong, they remind us what’s right.
Whether it’s COVID-19 and a global pandemic, or a season of personal stress, your strengths are with you.
Let’s put them to work.