In my strive to make people more productive, less stressed and generally happier at work, I’ve found an interesting article on Business Insider who interviewed Eric Potterat, a former head psychologist for the US Navy SEALs. He mentions that one similarity of “elite people”, whether they are athletes or military members, is how they cope with stress. He describes that people who control stress can control their performance in any environment, and that anyone can learn it and turn it into a habit.
How you can learn to cope with stress
- Develop routines: Did you notice you are more productive when you do (or don’t do) certain things? So focus on them to get into the peak-performance and “in-the-flow” mindset. For some this is as simple as listening to a certain song or wearing the best sweather.
- Break down big goals into smaller chunks: I regularly also hear this one from planning gurus. A huge task can be very intimidating, while many smaller tasks can seem more doable and controllable.
- Control arousal levels: When you get nervous or stress, your blood pressure often increases, your arteries get tighter, and your heart rate shoots up. That’s the moment where you should kickstart your relaxation response, e.g. by taking slow, deep breaths. This is something I do a few minutes before every presentation.
- Positive thinking: It’s all about your mental thinking. Instead of pursuing negative, destructive thoughts in a stressful situation, ask yourself if there is anything you could do to improve the situation – and then do it!
- Compartmentalize: According to Potterat, elite performers learn to put the negative experience (e.g. a blown-up presentation or race) away, finish their performance and go back to re-investigate what went wrong later.
- Self-awareness: Learn more about your own habits when you are stressed. Maybe, you don’t eat or sleep well, or you bite your finger-nails. Try to figure out which ones worsen your stress, and try to cope with them.