For so many people right now, managing stress continues to be a real challenge. Having good tools is essential to stress management – and actually it’s not about managing stress, it’s about transforming it. How we think about stress is the first step, and we need to understand that it doesn’t have a role in true peak performance – at work or in any area of your life.
This is not the first time I’ve talked about stress not being a performance state, and nor will it be the last. Why is that? When I first started writing articles about ten years ago I thought I’d be writing on a totally different topic each time, and that repetition was not a good thing. I didn’t want to sound boring, or like a great aunt who loved repeating herself to anyone who would listen. It turns out, however, that we need reminders because most of us are still somewhat at the mercy of our habits around stress. And not only do we need reminding, we need to keep being really practical about changing our patterns and responses.
Because it won’t happen overnight, but it will happen.
Stress is not a performance state
Let’s start with a simple, rustic story to illustrate for you why stress is NOT a performance state.
On the rural property where I currently live; bush, paddocks and trees included, there are bunnies. Small and not-so-small sweet bunny rabbits with white bushy tails. They bound around the place and chew everything and they’re VERY cute. Every now and then you see one of them take off at great speed along the lawn, fleeing from a real or potential threat, before they stop and rest and start chewing on something again. It occurred to me one day that when they first take off, their fight/flight system is activated, adrenaline and cortisol flow through their bloodstream giving them energy to run, and as they fly along, those chemicals of survival are being used up nicely. Once the bunny is safe again it settles down, relaxes and its nervous system and chemistry returns to a resting state.
All is well. That is how nature works.
Cut to a new scene: An office tower housing a busy manager with a client on his tail about a document she suddenly needs urgently. The client is due to call any minute. Said manager has just realised the information needed to finish the document is with his colleague who is now in Fiji for two weeks. His heart starts racing, he’s feeling slightly sick in his stomach and his nervous system, which can sense (perceived) danger is releasing adrenaline and cortisol into his system to help him protect himself. As is customary in this response, blood and oxygen are flowing away from his head and out to his limbs to prepare him to fight or fly. He isn’t running around the office using all of these chemicals up and he isn’t calming down. As the phone is ringing, how useful is it that in that moment all of his resources are in his arms and legs, rather than his head, when he is about to have an important conversation with his client?
Not very useful.
It is in this moment, and many others like it, that having a calm, clear mind and our nervous system in balance allows us to think straight and articulate ourselves easily and effectively. In fact, being in anything less than a flow state isn’t allowing you to be at your best. A flow state enables you to not only think clearly, but to also access your creativity, ability to generate new ideas and solutions.
It enables you to be your most intelligent self.
The question I’m often asked is, how do I stop that stress response kicking in so easily?
It is a science and an art. The science is about understanding the importance of helping your body change its chemistry, get out of stress mode and change those old habits. The art is in being aware and taking charge of those situations more and more often. And you can. Today.
So, now for the (outrageous) invitation …
If you are truly ready to change your stress patterns for good, one of the simplest (albeit not super-easy) things you can do is to make your state of mind the most important thing in your day.
I mean making the way you feel THE most important thing – above your husband/wife, kids, boss, clients, staff, friends, deadlines. Everything and everyone.
I have issued this invitation to numerous clients over the years, including roomfuls of business people, lawyers, engineers, accountants, etc and they often stare back at me – incredulous or with wry amusement – a silent ‘’Yeah, right” written all over their face.
And then they try it.
And it works.
You are officially and outrageously invited to take charge of your brilliance,
in every situation you find yourself in,
by making your state the most important thing in your day.
Outrageous, I know.
And the reality is (and you know this, I think) when we take the time to be our most resourceful self, we bring a much better version of ourselves to others and our work; to our partner, kids, boss, clients, staff, friends, deadlines. Everything and everyone.
60 Seconds to a More Brilliant you
Consider there may be a mere 60 seconds between the stressed-you and the on-to-it you. Here are two fast and effective ways to get out of a stress-fuelled state:
1 >> 3 BREATHS
Take three full belly breaths in through your nose, out through your mouth to bring you more fully into your body and to calm your nervous system.
2 >> The Mood Mover™
An effective way to shift your state is using your physiology – your physical body and its ability to move. The Mood Mover™ is a fast way to do this. It’s a little crazy and nowhere near as subtle as three breaths, but fantastically useful when you are feeling particularly wound up or stressful. Have fun using this zany little technique to shift your state when you’re not feeling totally resourceful.
Among other things, this 60 second pause can revolutionise your energy levels in the day. Imagine catching yourself at 11 o’clock in the morning as you begin to get wound up and stressed about a deadline that’s just been brought forward, and shifting your state at that time. Imagine calming your body down and clearing your head. What would that mean for the following few hours, and your headspace for getting the job done?
We often feel we haven’t got time to stop and mess around making ourselves feel better (there’s just too much to do, right?!). And yet we do ourselves a great disservice but not taking a few minutes, or even a mere 60 seconds to shift our state and come back to the brilliant, capable person we really are.
Be outrageous, be your best, and enjoy noticing what unfolds.
PS. Find out more about how to apply The Mood Mover™ and how to take charge of your stress. Register for the Start Me Up Toolkit, and receive your FREE video and eBook … giving you the three fastest ways (you haven’t heard of) to beat stress and take charge of your state.