Stress is considered the leading contributor to bad performance at work.
But why? Isn’t stress a good motivator to get things done well and on time?
Yes of course! But it depends…..
Below reduce stress in 60 seconds.
Feeling stress is okay, but its what we do with that feeling or thought that can make all the difference. Some of us will avoid people or activities that are important to us, as a way of trying to decrease stress. But does this actually work? Do we then feel more stress for doing that. Some of us might get into conflict “vent one’s spleen” as a way to relieve stress. How have you felt 5 minutes or 5 hours later when you have used this strategy?
Stress is part of our modern day to day lives, a lot of it we can’t control (e.g., unexpected change, boss’s behaviour, clients, technology, traffic, weather…. ). What we do have more control over is what we choose to do next. Do you overthink the situation, go in to panic or avoid or argue? Can you instead have some self-compassion around the experience of stress and still do what is important to you?
We are all very hard on ourselves most of the time. There are some good scientific reasons for this, which are largely because our brains have a negative bias which influences negative self-talk. Most people I work with, are not aware of this fact. Negative bias was created to protect us from being eaten by a lion – preparing for the worst outcome. But now in 2019, when we feel stress it is not a lion that is about to eat us (unless on safari), but gosh, some days it does feel like it! So what do we do?
I use this 4 step strategy all the time, as do my clients and we all love it!
You need to practice this a few times slowly. Once you have the process down pat, I promise you it will defuse stress in seconds when you need it most.
Step 1: Get out of the quick sand
Be okay feeling stressed. It is your reptilian (fright, fight, flight) brain, telling you there is a lion over there. Unless you are on safari or find yourself faced by an actual lion say to yourself “I am stressed and I am okay”. This tells your reptilian brain that you are no longer in danger or need to fly, freeze or fight. If you continue to say “I am stressed” (I also called this marinading in your stress) as it becomes like quick sand and makes it worse! Tell your brain you are okay, which will help step 2.
Step 2: Turn on your smart brain
Take 3 slow deep breaths. In for 3 seconds, out for 3 seconds. Excuse yourself to go to the bathroom (even if you don’t need to go!) After taking your 3 deep breathes, say “It is okay to feel stress, I am okay”. This helps to turn on the Neocortex or smart brain. The Neocortex is brain’s home for impulse control and helps you make rational decisions.
Step 3: Notice
Decide what it was that caused this stress response. What was your “Lion?” for example:
- Bad news?
- A difficult conversation?
- A colleague or boss?
- Receiving or giving negative feedback?
- Letting someone down?
- Something else?
Step 4: Re-engage
Recognise it isn’t a Lion or a giant Croc, but maybe just a person.
Decide on something small you could do or say that is moving towards the person or situation. I call it my “5% move”. What is a micro step you can do today that will move you towards what is important rather than away. For example (using the same list above):
- Reread the email with the bad news after a few more deep breaths (you don’t have to respond to it just yet, and best you don’t when feeling stressed as your responses are likely to come from your flight/fright/fight brain).
- Book a time in your diary to have the difficult conversation (take some time to prepare)
- Ask your colleague or boss “so help me understand where you are coming from? How can I help or improve? What would you recommend in this situation?” Ask questions when you feel frustrated, angry or anxious communicating with a colleague. It quickly gets you out of defensiveness (also known as your “fight” response).
- Whether you are receiving or giving negative feedback use this question interchangeably.”So lets assume we are having this discussion in 12 months time, and I (or you) have achieved every goal, KPI, in fact have hit it out of the ball park. What are the top 3 things I (or you) have done?” Turning curiosity on in your brain, moves you from the reptilian brain to the neocortex, ie. smart brain.
You may have better examples of a 5% move. Whatever it is and do it immediately, because it could transform your Lion to a big playful cat, at the same time reducing stress.
Give it a go! Let me know what you notice.
I hope this information was of value. If you would like to spend less time in avoidance and spend more time achieving important individual and team goals why not book a 30 minute phone or video consult with me, your first one is on me. Book here
Warmly, Margie Ireland
Leadership Coach | Workplace Psychologist