Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Seven Stress Tips!

I found this article so informative and helpful in handling stress!  I feel myself wavering between being too stressed out, and feeling guilty when I'm not stressed to the max!  These tips helped me reduce guilt in how I handle stress, plus gave me new ideas to be more effective.  Hope you enjoy!   

From the Psychology Today Blog Writer Paula Davis-Laack, JD, MAPP

7 Stress Tips I Wish I'd Known before I Entered the Real World

Advice to give the student or young professional in your life.
As graduation approaches for many people around the country in the next few weeks, I've been reflecting on the nine years that have passed since I received my law degree. The date was May 20, 2002, and I remember gliding across the graduation platform to shake the dean's hand and grasp my hard-earned diploma. Little did I know then that the knowledge I had in my head would be only one tool in a large toolkit I would need to build in order to have both a successful and sustainable career.
Stress is not a subject taught in school, it's just something we all experience as part of life. While good stress keeps you focused, helps you generate ideas, and gives you a boost of energy, bad stress can affect your emotional and physical health. It wasn't until I burned out, cleared away the fog that was my former career, and analyzed where I went wrong that I discovered some very valuable information. Specifically, these are the nuggets of advice about stress I wish I had received before entering the real world:

1. Think like an athlete. Jim Loehr, co-author of the Harvard Business Review article entitled, "The Making of a Corporate Athlete," describes an ideal performance state as prolonged and sustained high performance over time. To achieve this, you must become adept at moving between energy expenditure (stress) and energy renewal (recovery).

2. Rejuvenate - often. Easier said than done, but in order to get the energy renewal required to live and work in an ideal performance state, you must refill your tank. Research shows that little mini renewals are needed about every two hours. Walking down the hall to grab a beverage, stretching, listening to music for a few minutes, or shifting your attention will give you the energy you need to finish important tasks in a productive manner. In addition to daily mini renewals, you need rejuvenate outside of work. Make a list of the different ways you like to rejuvenate and do something from that list each week.

3. Know Your Stress Type. Dirk Hellhammer, noted stress researcher, and Doctors Stephanie McClellan and Beth Hamilton have identified four stress types that specifically impact women. They are as follows:  a. Flat and frazzled. You are generally calm, but when stress hits, you have a big response. You are extremely sensitive to stress.
b. Life observer. This is the most rare stress type marked by an extreme state where you feel like you're living in a bubble watching life pass you by.
c. Constant overdrive. Your engine is always revved. You have a hard time sitting still, often tap your feet or hands, and frequently clench or grind your teeth.
d. Sprint and crash. Stress keeps you focused and running so you can close deals, prepare for a big meeting, and manage all of your clients, but once the stress is reduced or eliminated, you crash.

4. Be a satisficer, not a maximizer. We live in a culture that rewards perfection, which is a state that is not sustainable. The pressure is on to make the perfect decision, give the perfect sales pitch, or pick the perfect product (called maximizing). According to Dr. Barry Schwartz, this feeling stems from the fact that we have too many choices in today's modern world (when was the last time you felt overwhelmed buying a new pair of jeans, a car, or even food because of the sheer number of choices that existed?) According to Dr. Schwartz, too much choice not only makes our decisions harder but also makes it more likely that we'll end up regretting our selection. As a result, eliminate choices by setting standards - what is your "good enough" (called satisficing)? Your family, friends, and clients don't want you to be perfect, they want you to do a good job and be you.

5. Take Risks. At first glance, this piece of advice might seem like a big stress promoter, but not if you're taking the right kind of risk. The happiest people work on challenging tasks regularly, and if you're working on hard enough goals, you're going to have to put yourself out there. While this means you will be out of your comfort zone, you will also have the amazing ability to learn and grow from your mistakes and gain confidence and momentum when you do well.

6. Establish goals that promote flow. Flow is another way of describing those moments when you're "in the zone." You are at your most productive when you're in this state and time flies by. Flow happens when you find the right level of task challenge for your skill level and you're pursuing something that is intrinsically motivating. If you miss that sweet spot, you will either be bored (the task challenge is too easy) or anxious (the task challenge is too hard).

7. Pay attention to positive emotion. Given how hard the professional world is today, it's easy to be tuned into pessimism and negative emotion. Barbara Fredrickson's groundbreaking research on positive emotion shows that those who most frequently cultivate it broaden and build their personal resources. Specifically, they have an increased capacity to find solutions to tough problems, improved health, and stronger relationships. Her research shows that in order to see the benefits that positive emotion can bring, you should be at or near a positivity ratio of 3:1 (positive to negative emotions). To find out where you're at

The world needs more of you - strong, talented go-getters who are able to navigate the pressure that comes with being a high-achieving professional. These tools will help you not only succeed, but also thrive, allowing you to both live and work at a sustainable pace.

Csikszentmihalyi, M. (1991). Flow: The psychology of optimal experience. New York: Harper Perennial.Fredrickson, B. (2009). Positivity. New York: Crown Publishers.  Loehr, J., & Schwartz, T. (2001). The making of a corporate athlete. Harvard Business Review. Retrieved on April 13, 2011 at  McClellan, S., & Hamilton, B. (2010). So stressed. New York: Free Press.  Schwartz, B. (2004). The paradox of choice. New York: Harper Perennial.

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