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Managing Stress

So, how can we best deal with this? Here we look at what stress does to the body and some tips on how to manage stress.

With optimal performance being the product of manageable stimulation where we become focused and engaged, how do we deal with it when the balance tips over and we become stressed?

Sixty-six percent of people are feeling more negative post-pandemic, with 34% of us feeling overwhelmed some of the time. So, how can we best deal with this? Here we look at what stress does to the body and some tips on how to manage stress.

graph of yerkes-dodson law for optimal performance

What Does Stress do to the Body?

When stressed, the body is under threat. This is characterised by:

  • Reduced working memory
  • Increased anxiety
  • Our energy resources go to physical response
  • We avoid extra risk – protect what we’ve got
  • Tendency towards pessimism

Something that if we’re in the performing space can take just two hours to do well may take four hours to do when stressed – it’s bad news.

And we tend to get stressed about being stressed.

Stress is often the response to the balance of demands and resources, so it helps to think how to reduce/change demands. Topics to think about to help us process our stress levels are:

  • Self-awareness and early warning signs
  • Switching off
  • Relaxation
  • Creating balance in demands and resources
  • Managing the gremlins
  • Focusing ‘in the moment’
  • Longer term strategies

To pull out one of the above for more analysis is managing the gremlins. These are the negative things we often tell ourselves that can put us in a downward spin.

managing stress chart situation thoughts reaction and behaviour

Tips to Help Manage Stress

To help manage the gremlins:

  • Identify negative patterns
  • Recognise it as a ‘thinking error’, not a ‘fact’
  • Challenge your thinking – seek counter evidence and be more objective
  • Problem solve on how you can develop more balanced perspectives
  • Take learning from the situation
  • Visualise a different response and outcome

For example, perhaps you have been criticised at work for a presentation you have created. Rather than list to false gremlins that may say: I’m rubbish at this; I could lose my job, I’m embarrassed to see my boss now, I’m not good enough… Challenge the thoughts - ‘Yes, I can see that they wanted something different from the slide deck and that this time I haven’t given them what they needed. That’s unusual, normally they are very happy with my work. So, what was different this time? Perhaps I rushed in too quickly, I assumed that I knew what they wanted, and as they were in a rush, we didn’t spend enough time developing a shared picture of the level of analysis. Next time I will make sure that I check it out fully.’

Knock on impact on emotions, behaviour and physical reaction, leaves you better able to deal with it and not fighting the physical stress response that comes with listening to our gremlins.

Written by Dr Maggi Evans, psychologist, author, talent strategist and coach