Let me start by asking you this question: Have you ever been so stressed out that you can’t sleep, or so stressed that you feel like pulling your hair out or just breaking down and crying? I feel like it is safe to say that we all have experienced some level of moderate stress in our lifetimes. However, today I want to help you view your stress a little differently. I want you to be able to be stressed and both happy and productive at the same time. I know it sounds hard but I promise you that it’s easier than it sounds.
Yes, there are lots of helpful tips out there on the internet and they all claim to help and most of them do. But I want to share with you a few techniques I use or tell other people to use when they are stressed out or overwhelmed. My first tip is to watch a short Ted Talk given by Kelly McGonigal on ‘How to Make Stress Your Friend’. We had to watch this when I was a Psychology major at Boise State University. For me, it couldn’t have come at a better time. I was extremely overwhelmed in my last semester, trying to figure out my future and whether or not I was going to be accepted to graduate or not (For those of you that don’t know, you have to apply for graduation and then wait 6 weeks for the answer. At least at BSU). I really listened to what Kelly had to say and did my best to apply some of her techniques to my life, along with what I was studying at school and it worked tremendously. If you are stressed or would just like to learn the techniques, I highly encourage that you watch this Ted Talk.
Another method I try to practice is focusing on the task at hand and not on the outcome (INC). For example, if you have a big presentation to give your boss, you should focus all your efforts on the research and preparation, rather than what your boss might ultimately say or do. If you put 100 percent into your preparation, you will be able to deliver your speech, presentation, etc. flawlessly. I say that because you know when you are prepared and when you aren’t. You are the only one going into the presentation knowing that. Everybody will find out throughout your presentation just how much time went into preparing for it. So, the best thing you can do is focus on your task and make sure you have prepared for it like nothing else matters. I can speak from experience that when I give a presentation and I know I am prepared, my stress level goes down and my confidence goes up, as I can assure you the same thing will happen with you.
The next thing I want you to do is slow down. Slow everything down, your thinking, your breathing, and your body movement. The natural response to stress is to move faster, get it over and done with but that usually makes things worse. When you slow down, you are able to think clearer and catch a full breath. The breathing technique I use is the four-second rule (no that isn’t the official name) but it goes like this; when you’re stressed try inhaling for four seconds, holding that breath for four seconds and then exhaling for four seconds. This will slow down your heart rate while simultaneously calming your demeanor. In case you are questioning the validity of the four-second rule, you should know that this technique is taught to the US Military to help calm them while experiencing combat.
Finally, if you have the time before your big meeting, presentation or whatever it is, try to do something you enjoy for ten minutes before the presentation takes place. I usually listen to music that I enjoy for ten minutes before going in. I feel that those ten minutes are better to help calm me down rather than cram in a little more information into my head. I would also suggest watching a funny video or listen to a joke, something that will ease the nerves and make you smile. That alone will help tenfold. I learned this practice during my psychology undergrad days at Boise State and I still use them today.
If I can leave you with one final thought, it would be this, everybody experiences stress but the ultra-successful people use these methods and techniques during stressful situations that help them overcome the worry.
“Chasing meaning is better for your health than avoiding discomfort”. – Kelly McGonigal