How do you view stress in your life? Is it something that you avoid and fear? Or, do you harness stress’ powerful energy to be the momentum that drives your performance energy? Today, we show you how to manage your stress and turn nervous energy shocks into positive action.
Exposure to stress is unavoidable. Yet, your stress response can be controlled – if you train it. You can choose to react impulsively or have a measured response. Ultimately, it’s your responsibility.
If you view stress as a gift, you’ve likely learned what many top executives already know. Industry change leaders — Richard Branson, Cheryl Sandberg, and Elon Musk, for example, know that when appropriately channelled, acute stress can be a powerful motivator of productivity and change.
To transform our connection with stress, we have to own it, redefine it, breathe through it, and engage it. Let’s get started.
Breathe Into Your Stress.
When acute stress erupts, our bodies react with some typical stress symptoms. Our heart rate increases, muscles become tense, the body releases hormones, and feelings of nervousness, tension, anger, or rage rise-up. Stress does not produce comfort or fulfillment in the moment.
YET, stress produces growth. So, when uncomfortable energy rises up, we have the power to choose our response – if we coach it.
Start with your breath. Breathing transforms our negative stress response into a powerful force of action.
Taking strong, deep, intentional breaths when stress hits transmute potent stress-energy into usable forward momentum. For example, when harnessed correctly, stress-energy can be used to build the pillars of success.
When stress-energy is observed — feelings of anticipation, tingling of extremities, an inability to focus on your task or, you feel the upswell of rage — take a minute and check your breath. Try the following exercise:
- Breathe in with as much force you can muster for four seconds.
- Hold your breath for seven seconds.
- Purse your lips and breathe out slowly for eight seconds.
- Repeat a few more times.
When we focus on breathing deeply into the bottom of our diaphragm and fill our lungs with vast amounts of air, the body responds by activating the vagus nerve. Vagus nerve activation triggers your rest-and-digest system, also known as the parasympathetic nervous system. Your body responds by doing the following:
- Sympathetic (fight-and-flight) and parasympathetic nervous systems fire together, creating an unstoppable concentration.
- Your heart rate lowers and beats more efficiently.
- Your blood pressure decreases.
- Nitric oxide dilates blood vessels, increasing the delivery of oxygen and nutrients to your brain and muscles.
- Your mood becomes more positive and action-oriented.
Deep-breathing helps us respond to stress with calm intention. Our level-headed response keeps us from losing control. When we match the intensity of an acute stress attack with a positive, well-trained action at the same energy level, we take responsibility for our success and achieve favourable outcomes.
A good mantra to repeat while taking deep breaths is “Good energy in. Bad energy out. Power-focus in. Negative-distraction out.”
Take Ownership Over Your Stress.
When we own our stress, we transform our response to it. Taking ownership builds awareness of our responsibility. We are responsible for the presence of this stress in our lives. We have control over our energy state.
Unexpected employee turnover or supply-chain disruptions are work-life stressors we would never wish upon ourselves. However, we can alter the impact that stress has on our health, professionalism, and well-being.
Did you work hard to get this career? How about your current title? Position? Could you leave it at any time? Are you chained to your desk? What choices do you have in the present situation?
Remembering and articulating your choices reminds you of the real control that you have in any challenging situation. This mindset shift will transform your personal narrative from being a victim to being a victor. You move from being acted upon by the stress of your work to using that stress to take action and solve the inevitable problems of your work.
You were promoted to take on this stress. This is your job, your responsibility, and your opportunity to develop your disciplines. This stress will make you stronger.
By accepting that stressful situations are unique experiences to be learned from, we transform our view of stress from being an uncontrollable force into a malleable resource.
To own your stress, take a moment — and a deep breath. Fill every tiny corner of your chest cavity with air and remind yourself that you have chosen to be where you are. You have chosen the challenge being presented. Accept responsibility for stress and that stressful situations are teachable moments for us to open ourselves to growth.
Be Grateful for Stress.
When we learn to breathe into stress and own it, we can take the next step and demonstrate gratitude towards the energy. This might sound counterintuitive, but if stress is something we actively own, we need to appreciate the power it brings to our life.
Everything worth owning, or exhibiting ownership of, — a business, a promotion to a C-suite position, or responsibility for a new project, for example, is worthy of gratitude. That also applies to the inherent stresses each asset brings as a price of ownership.
Examples of Stress Gratitude
- For the HR executive maneuvering clashing personalities, “Thank you for enhancing my conflict resolution skills.”
- For parents struggling with balancing work and home life, “Thank you for teaching me to set boundaries.”
- For the organizational leader dealing with outsized demands from the board, “Thank you for strengthening my patience and diligence.”
- For the athlete whose performance has stalled, “Thank you for teaching me failure.”
Believe it or not, gratitude increases the positive benefits we receive from stress, helping us take responsibility for our response.
Engage the Challenge Stress Presents.
Stress causes internal, physical responses that can lead to negative or harmful consequences, if not transformed into positive momentum. How we choose to engage with stress directly impacts how helpful — or destructive, stress-energy can be.
Transforming stress through active engagement of stressful circumstances can take several forms. Each reaction will be dependent on the situation and might lead us in unexpected directions.
Choose to Engage
Action is required to transform stress into usable energy. This is when we can decide how to best engage with stress that will drive our goals forward.
How to Engage Stress
- If it will take less than two minutes, do it!
- Delegate tasks to trustworthy team members.
- Delete the stress from your life. Set a boundary. Say goodbye.
- Defer the task to a later date in your calendar or within another trusted planning device.
Other simple strategies to help stress work for you:
- Invest in a team-building workshop to boost team morale.
- Engage in physical exercise to prevent long-term harm caused by chronic stress.
- Create a realistic strategy in-line with your professional and personal goals.
Stress is a Powerful Gift
Stress is energy. Energy is fuel. The fuel stress-energy provides is energy we can use to navigate and resolve challenges. It takes intention and a willingness to shift our traditional view of stress. Once accomplished, we can use our external actions to transform stress-energy into strategic responses. For more information on Adam Kreek Business Solutions and how we can assist your business goals and growth, connect with our team.