Houston, we’ve had a problem

Reflections on Monitor and Manage Your Stress Level for Top Performance

Hang around, but hang loose.

The key ideas

This article addresses stress management. Its two broad ideas are about (a) identifying stress, and (b) managing stress.

Monitoring stress

Some level of stress can enhance performance and push us to our peak. But too much of it is not good and can be detrimental to us and those around us.

Each of us has a unique response to excessive stress. It is important to identify our own stress response so that we can address it before we buckle under it. The article identifies stress response patterns:

  • Pay attention to your attention: After a stretch of productivity, do you find yourself checking out other websites or social media?
  • Take note of your mood: Are you less optimistic? Has the excitement of a challenge given way to frustration?
  • Assess your stamina: Do you feel like you’re running out of steam, or hitting a brick wall?
  • Listen to your body: Do you suddenly have heartburn or a headache? Dizziness, back pain, a racing pulse?

Another useful description is in negative thought patterns, where one’s view of people and situations loses nuance, and becomes black-or-white, all-or-nothing thinking. One can also hold the bar unrealistically high and overreact to mistakes, both theirs and others’.

Managing Stress

When you can identify your stress level before it gets too high, you can take control of it before it takes control of you.

One technique the article introduces is the relaxation response. It involves going to a quiet place to repeat a word or gesture for 10 to 20 minutes. This technique counteracts the physiological response to stress by decreasing metabolism, slowing heart rate and breathing, and lowering blood pressure.

Other lifestyle changes to help include getting enough sleep, exercise, and eating a balanced diet. The article also recommends starting the day by mentally playing it out in ways that are in your best interest. If you are seeing yourself doing a good job, you are more likely to move towards that direction.

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