You know those days when you just don’t have enough hours to get everything done? Work and family responsibilities keep piling up, your phone keeps dinging and you’re expected to respond 24/7. This ‘always on’ lifestyle can take its toll. Feeling stressed out all the time can lead to burnout and weaken the immune system. 

It’s important to recognize that everyone reacts to stress in a different way. Some people find even the smallest things stressful. Others can handle almost any situation in a calm, cool way. If you’re part of the first group, here’s why:

Research shows people who get stressed out easily often have an overactive amygdala -- the area of the brain that regulates the ‘fight or flight’ response. Others are more sensitive to stress because of something negative that happened when they were younger. Maybe they witnessed violence, were bullied or experienced the death of a family member. The neurons that connect these stressful experiences with a physical and mental reaction have been activated and the reaction remains strong.

But stress can be a good thing. The energy we feel when we’re stressed can be channeled in a more positive way. Here are 3 ways to train your brain to stress less.

Practice mindfulness
It’s possible to activate the part of the brain that helps regulate your emotional response to stress (the prefrontal cortex). Research shows practicing mindfulness (think: breathing exercises or focusing on your surroundings) for 30 minutes per day can strengthen your prefrontal cortex and shrink your amygdala, which will help modify your reaction to stress.

Become a planner
Some situations that stress you out can be minimizing through extra planning. Worried about work over the weekend? Plan to spend a few hours catching up on Sunday. Trying to be everywhere at once? Arrange to carpool or re-book one of your commitments. Mid-week meals getting you down? Plan to do some of the cooking over the weekend.

Channel your energy
Many of us interpret stressful situations as scary and dangerous. The solution is to change your perspective and react with excitement instead. Recognize your strengths and channel your energy toward handling the situation using your best skills. Try saying ‘get excited’ to yourself out loud. Trust your experience and try to think about the situation more rationally. By reacting with an opportunistic mindset, you can harness stress to improve your performance.

Stress is inevitable, but your reaction to it can change for the good. Get to know your reaction and try these three tips when you can. With some practice you’ll soon be handling pressure with poise.