All of us will experience some levels of stress in our lives. In fact studies tell us that certain levels of stress are essential to keep us sharp and allow for optimal performance. Too much stress however can have just the opposite effect on the human body, causing us to lose sleep, attack our immune systems, increase our blood pressure, and create a whole host of health issues such as hypertension, overeating, excessive use of caffeine and alcohol. And by the way all of this stress is causing us to be less productive as well.
Somehow high achievers and high performers have learned how to manage themselves and their emotions in times of great stress and conflict and so rather than re-invent the wheel, let’s just learn from them and do what they do.
- High performers tend to STAY POSITIVE and have a highly developed ATTITUDE of GRATITUDE. No this is not touchy feeling stuff. Learning to appreciate all that you have vs. dwelling on what you do not have is a good place to start when it comes to reducing your stress levels. Science tells us that in doing so we increase our production of dopamine and serotonin (feel good hormones) and thereby decrease levels of cortisol (stress hormone).
It’s not that things always work out for high performers; rather it’s quite the opposite. When situations or events do not go as planned, high performers will tend to re-frame their thoughts in that moment in a positive light. By asking questions like, “What is the lesson I can learn from this?” “What can I take away from this and how will I apply this moving forward?” Rather then being angry or upset and beating up themselves or others because things didn’t go as planned, they can find that value in most anything that comes their way.
- High performers understand that they are not paid for PERFECTION, but
for RESULTS. Fail fast, fail often fail forward! Striving for perfection is a valiant goal, yet often becomes to detriment to high performance.
The world is littered with seemingly intelligent, talented people that are sitting on the sidelines wanting to be perfect. History also illustrates that many of our most successful individuals have failed over and over again before they finally struck gold. My two favorite examples are Michael Jordan, who was cut from the Varsity High School basketball team as a sophomore, and the Beatles who we denied a recording contract from Decca because “guitar music is on the way out”
Look, failure is just part of the process and we certainly do not have to enjoy it. On the other hand having to be perfect all the time creates a rather large amount of unneeded stress and anxiety. The worst part is we create that stress all by ourselves, and let’s be honest; there is plenty of real stress out there without creating more.
- High achievers TAKE CARE OF THEMSELVES! In our highly connected,
over stimulated, smart phone crazy world. Highly productive individuals understand when their minds and bodies have had enough. Our brains are not designed for a 24/7, 365 day work-life. Successful people have created healthy habits like eating the right foods on a consistent basis, exercise, and most importantly taking time to “unplug from the Matrix” by shutting down computers and smart phones. Excessive amounts of caffeine, alcohol and our new addiction- checking our phones, puts our adrenal glands into hyper-drive and stress levels into orbit. High performers understand when they are getting diminishing returns and fall back on healthy routines like taking an hour away, working out, having lunch with a friend or relatives, sitting in a quiet spot and a host of other strategies all designed to calm themselves, reduce stress levels and allow them to re-enter the game with new focus and energy.
- CREATE AN IDEAL DAY AND IDEAL WEEK. Successful individuals are creatures of productive habits. Some like to wear the same outfits on certain days, others will eat the same breakfast or lunch, or only respond to emails at certain times of the day. All of this is designed to take the stress of making yet “one more decision” out of the equation and thus creating less stress. One of the most successful habits is taking a few minutes each morning and identifying what your priorities are for that day. Now that you’ve locked in your objectives, your brain has an amazing way of subconsciously multi-tasking to complete them. There is also the added bonus of crossing your goals off the list at the end of the day, which a recent study on productivity tell us creates yet another boost of dopamine (feel good hormone) to end the workday. This small sense of accomplishment allows us to go home to our families in a much better state that ultimately reduces our stress levels. What are your habits and routines are they creating less stress or more stress?
- FOCUS ON OUTCOMES. High achievers have an amazing ability to keep themselves and those around them focused on the outcomes they desire. They consistently ask themselves and others- are the actions we’re taking moving us closer to the goal or further away from it. In doing so it allows all parties to eliminate distractions and white noise and stay focused on what is important and what really matters in that moment. This clarity around the Big Picture comes in handy when everything else seems to be falling apart. I like to say that high achievers stay focused on the “What” and understand that the “How” will present itself to them at some point and then it’s just about “the Doing” which never really seems to phase them.
I hope you’ve found these little tips as valuable as I have over the years. Please feel free to post your stress relievers in the comments below so we can all benefit from them.