Rule number one is don’t sweat the small stuff.” Rule number two is, it’s all small stuff.”
Dr. Robert S. Eliot, Cardiologist
While we think of stress in negative terms, not all stress is bad for us. Recent research by U.C. post-doctoral fellow Elizabeth Kirby’s research has shown that short term periods of acute stress are actually good for us. A recent study showing that short term episodes of stress in rats caused their brains to develop new nerve cells which improved their mental performance. Kirby concludes that short periods of stress keep our brains more alert and helps us adapt to new situations
On the other hand, chronic stress has been shown to be bad for us. Research has shown that long term ongoing stress suppresses the production of new neurons in the hippocampus or memory area of the brain decreasing our memory. It has also been shown to have damaging effects on our entire bodies resulting in increased risk for chronic obesity, heart disease and depression.
High performers have found ways to manage their stress levels. Here are five ways that will help you do so as well.
Focus on the positive and develop your sense of self-worth
While we have little control over the things that happen to us on a daily basis, we have total control over what we think about. People who are able to manage their stress appropriately, choose to focus on what is going well regardless of the circumstances they are experiencing. Focusing on the positive allows us to avoid becoming overwhelmed by stressful situations and not take on stress from events and points of view which we have little or no control over. People who are successful don’t spend a lot of time and energy worrying about what others think of them. They have a strong sense of self, purpose and know where they are going in life. Knowing that security and confidence can only come from within themselves, they are constantly striving to expand and grow their own lives.
Develop an attitude of gratitude
Along with remaining positive, people who handle stress well are always cognizant of the real joys in their life they have to be grateful for. This helps keep them in an upbeat positive mood and reduces the stress in their lives. From keeping a gratitude book to having quotes on their walls reminding them of the good aspects in their lives, successful people always find events to be thankful for and spend time thinking about those experiences whenever stress comes up in their lives.
Find ways to get away and reenergize
Technology can get us hooked into thinking we should be available 24/7. Successful people use technology but avoid becoming a slave to it by detaching themselves and taking a break to reenergize. They have set aside planned and scheduled time for themselves and their other interests outside of work, which they tenaciously guard. Others know this about them and respect their off time. Accomplished people have highly developed activities, interests, hobbies and outlets that they are passionate about which takes them away from their everyday stressors in the workplace.
Develop strong support networks
Successful people who manage their stress well, never put all their eggs in one basket. These folks have a well-developed support network that they can count on to support them through difficult times. Multi-faceted individuals have strong family ties, friendships and community connections they can call upon in times of need. They are involved in helping others and in turn know that the support is there for them when they are in need. Knowing this support network is there for them gives the security and confidence to go out and attempt tasks which others may find too stressful.
Take the long term view
Think back to a stressful situation from a year ago, 5 or 10 years ago. Do you remember how stressful it was back then? How about today? Do you remember the famous phrase, “This too shall pass”? If we are in a situation causing us a lot of stress, think about how it will seem in one year or five years down the road when the circumstance has been resolved and forgotten about. Having goals and passions to work towards, helps us look beyond the present and get beyond the stress of current events. Knowing we have been in difficult situations before, survived and carried on, helps us calm ourselves today and manage our stress in difficult times.