Being able to remain calm under pressure is directly linked to your performance. 90% of top performers are skilled at managing their emotions in stressful times.
Stress is a necessary state because without it we are not spurred into action. Think about our ancestors and the sabre-toothed tiger. Stress would cause them to fight, flight or freeze. Our brains need a certain level of emotion to become activated.
It is when stress is present over a long period of time that it becomes more dangerous. The brain is resilient and can repair itself. Controlling stress allows it that time to recover.
However, when experienced over a longer more constant period the brain does not get that recovery time and thus its ability to generate new cells is restricted.
Studies have shown us that developing emotional intelligence competencies such as self-awareness, self-control, empathy, flexibility and relationship building are key to helping us manage stress effectively.
Successful business leaders who have mastered stress in their business and indeed personal lives use some of the following strategies:
Yes, I know we do it all the time, but are you aware of how you breathe? Is your breath shallow and fast? Are you holding your breath? Are you breathing deeply and slowly? Breathing slowly and deeply, even for a few seconds allows your logical brain to get involved in the situation, thus diluting a purely emotional response.
Tip: Try taking 10 minutes, sitting in your chair, feet firmly on the floor. Concentrate only on breathing in and out, count the breaths if it helps you focus. Your mind will wander but come back to the breathing again. This will give your brain a rest and help you feel grounded. It does require a bit of practice but you’ll be surprised at the energy you feel afterward.
Have a support system.
Leaders often feel that the buck stops with them and they have to shoulder everything on their own. They may feel that asking for help is a weakness but building an empathic supportive network around you is smart.
Tip: Identify colleagues who support you, can give you honest feedback and share different perspectives to widen your horizons. This ensures you don’t feel alone and it also strengthens those relationships.
They appreciate what they have
Feeling gratitude is not just a new-age feel-good thing. Research at the University of California found that people who work on a daily basis to cultivate an attitude of gratitude reduced their cortisol levels by 23%.
Tip: Appreciating how far you have come and what you have achieved, also improves levels of self-confidence. This, in turn, helps you to quell negative self-talk which can often drive up levels of anxiety. Have a journal and jot down during the day good things that have happened, no matter how small. What’s not to appreciate?
They put things in perspective
When things are going wrong and you’re in the thick of it, it’s often hard to take a wider perspective on things. But, improving your self-awareness helps you to recognise those overwhelmed moments and see opportunities to intercept the flow of negativity.
Tip: It might be a moment to ask yourself the following questions:
What judgments or assumptions am I making here?
Do I know for sure that they are really true?
If they may not be true, what else might be true?
How would that change how I feel about this situation?
They look after their well-being
They are conscious of eating well, getting enough sleep, exercising, getting out into nature, not over-dosing on caffeine and switching off their devices. Looking after the mind and body will ensure you have the physical and psychological ability to deal with whatever comes your way without burnout or breakdown.
Tip: Take a few 5-minute detox breaks during the day. Switch off email notifications, take the phone off the hook, take a small walk if you can, breathe deeply, and eat some fresh fruit. Put the breaks into your calendar, and take them!
Actively working on the above areas will help you develop a more emotionally intelligent approach to stress management, which will benefit your well-being, your work performance and ultimately your life.
Barbara Nugent has over 20 years experience in large organisations, leading teams and holding senior management positions. She is passionate about helping others uncover and grow their personal and professional potential.
If you would like to improve your emotional intelligence, have a team workshop, or find out more about one-to-one coaching programmes, just contact email@example.com or www.transilientcoaching.ie
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