The impact of stress tends to follow an “Inverted U”: Some level is motivational and helpful however past a certain point, some folks experience the “deer in the headlights” and perceive the situation as being hopeless, beyond their control, and perhaps give up or go passive. Too much OR too little stress and performance suffers; the challenging boss who induces mild anxiety can be your ally, the supervisor who is too permissive, sets too low standards sabotages you just as much as the ogre who intimidates and frightens.
But where is that “certain point”? How and why does the stress inflection point differ between individuals? How can we move the needle in ways that serve us and empower us?
1) Successfully navigating a stressful situation builds resilience and confidence. Wise parents, good leaders, and self-aware individuals deliberately choose situations that gradually build our ability to manage and direct stress.
2) Stress has a significant “perception” component. If you believe that stress can be your friend, if you believe that you know how to harness, control, and manage stress then you will perform better than someone who sees stress as crippling.
3) Learn and practice stress management techniques, take comfort and gain strength by knowing you can manage stress. There are many ways to manage stress: exercise, meditation, walk in the woods, release affirmations and positive visualizations, seeking support or additional resources, self-distancing/going to the balcony/mountain top, therapy, talking with a mentor or wise friend.
“I developed a mechanism so that whatever mistakes I made, I would bounce straight back. Whatever happened, I could put it to one side and maintain my form. Call it mental resilience or a strong mind, but that is what we mean when we talk about experience in a football team.” – Gary Neville, b. 1974, one of the most decorated English/European footballers of all time
“When fear rushed in, I learned how to hear my heart racing but refused to allow my feelings to sway me.” – Coretta Scott King, 1927-2006
“When we tackle obstacles, we find hidden reserves of courage and resilience we did not know we had. And it is only when we are faced with failure do we realize that these resources were always there within us. We only need to find them and move on with our lives.” – A. P. J. Abdul Kalam, 1931-2015, President of India, 2002 to 2007
As always, I share what I most want and need to learn. – Nathan S. Collier