It all begins slowly. Heart beating faster, mouth drying up. Sweat starting to pour. Then next thing you know, you got stress bringing you down. It’s a part of life and it’s actually something we can control. Rather, people view it as something to bring people down.
That Cheesy ‘Keep Calm and Carry On’ design everywhere says how to deal with stress, but is it applicable? Might as well be shutting down and stop doing everything.
Stress is complex because it affects so many areas and at different times. Yet so common situations that we’ve experienced since elementary school. Talking to your boss, performing something live, taking an exam all leads to stress that is called pre-performance stress. That’s what stops us from being productive.
Is it possible to look at stress as an actual advantage for your life? Taking those negative thoughts of anxiety and insecurity into excitement and focused motivation? Sounds too good to be true, but I’m going to show it’s actually more attainable than you might think.
Now scientifically, when we are stressed, our brains release a chemical called noradrenaline. Noradrenaline is both a good and a bad chemical to have. It increases arousal and alertness, but also increases anxiety and feeling tired.
We actually need a healthy amount of that chemical or we’re not working at our best. Ian Roberston, a cognitive neuroscientist at Trinity College Dublin said:
There’s a sweet spot of stress where you are right in the middle of what you need. Think of it has a Goldilocks zone of noradrenaline that it like a brain tuner.
Noradrenaline essentially allows us to communicate with all our neural connections more smoothly.
So that means if we can control and deal with our stress it actually be a boost in brain power. By increasing creativity and happiness, so we feel less of anxiety and depression.
So question is how do I deal with stressful situations to make this happen?
It all begins by rethinking the situation.
Most of the symptoms I said previously, the heart racing, dry mouth, etc. are we get when we feel excitement. I said in previous episode about how self assurance talk can actually backfire. It’s the same way.
We feel anxiety before an important event or talking to someone of importance. This causes draining memory capacity, lower confidence, and overall harm in performance.
Knowing this actually makes it worse. Anticipation of anxiety is used from the phrase ‘Calm down’ as in Keep Calm and Carry On.
Alison Wood Brooks, an assistant professor at Harvard Business School actually found out through studies that people who is able to not think ‘calm down’ but rather viewed as a part of excitement.
Stress and excitement both have arousal and a low sense of control.
Stress should be a challenge, not a burden.
Personal development is key focus in this mindset. As said by Stanford psychologist Carol Dweck which essentially means those who believe they can improve actually do.
Feeling like you can’t change is what’s stopping negative thoughts and actions that prevent you from doing your best.
Granted a possibility in failure can be seen as a negative, but also a chance to learn. This is how you turn stress into excitement and where the middle ground in actually improving performance.
Comedians and other performers actually worry if they don’t feel some level of anxiety before performance. Tiger Woods has spoken outwardly that he know’s he’s going to have a bad play if he doesn’t feel it before he swings. This is how it ultimately becomes a performance enhancer.
Your mind is like a track - build it right
We’ve all know that negative thoughts of stress and anxiety go with us throughout our lives. It’ll never fully be gone.
Every single one of these thoughts are connections of neutral and chemical flows through our brain. The more the thought, the stronger the feeling.
This is like a ski track in snow as said by Neuroscientist Alex Korb.
Like swing, the more you go down the path, the easier it gets.
Just like a mindset, the more you experience fear, anxiety, and self-doubt, the easier it gets going down that path. Now this can be resolved by what psychologists call ‘cognitive reappraisal’.
This cognitive reappraisal is not ignoring negative thoughts, because let’s face, is too difficult to completely remove. It’s also not about turning these negatives into false positives such ‘People will love me’. It’s all about looking at the bigger picture and using only realistic thoughts.
Hooria Jazaieri, a licensed family therapist said The Wall Street Journal
“I tell clients to think like a scientist. You are using your observations and descriptions about yourself non-judgmentally, observing and describing facts.”
So instead of allowing a deep rabbit hole of negative thought. Take a moment to know what *is* happening and immediately stop.
My suggestion is to write these thoughts down and then identify what triggers them. Did your boss sent you an email saying he needs to speak with me and instantly thought something terrible was going to happen?
Write these things down and then toss them in a recycling bin. Be a scientist and challenge these thoughts like a hypothesis.
Did you do not perform? Will you get fired because of it?
Now when you think about these things, you’re no longer thinking rationally. Always look for the evidence. What have you done well? Did you get a raise recently?
Write those self doubting thoughts down. I’ve always said writing down increases memory and helps keep confidence in yourself. Keep on that ski course.
What happens if it doesn’t work? Then go as hard as you can.
Do you think your work is the worst? Then tell yourself that. Tell yourself that there’s never been a worse worker than you. There’s no reason why anyone should hire you.
Why? Because laughter said by Steve Orma, a clinical psychologist and author of Stop Worrying and Go To Sleep. Will always make you feel better. Which removes any negative thoughts.
So you want to gain muscle? As it turns out it’s not going to happen in one gym session. Your brain is just like that. It’s a continuation of understanding and being proactive in your anxiety that can be used productivity.
These aren’t scary as they really are, we just make them worse than they really are. It’s practice - just like all skills and it all begins with you and your thoughts.