Stay Calm, Be Successful- Control Emotional Outbursts

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Many of us are aware if the havoc excess stress can take on our mind and bodies. Stress can cause so many mental and physical ailments that make it difficult to handle day-to-day activities.  Yet, we often take on more than we are mentally & physically capable of doing without undue stress.   A recent Yale Study found that prolonged stress causes degeneration in the area of the brain responsible for self-control.

Stress in and of itself is unavoidable and researchers note that some stress is good for us.  Our “fight or flight” response is a reaction to outside stressors.  As most us us no longer need to worry about being chased by a lion, we have evolved to use this “good” stress in other ways such as competitions, brain storming etc.

Forbes Magazine noted in their recent article on stress that we tend to perform at our optimal level when we are under stress.  However, Forbes cites new research from UC Berkeley that points outs the benefits as well as the harmfulness stress can have on one’s personal life, work performance and overall brain function.

The study led by Elizabeth Kirby, shows the key to using stress to our benefit is the duration of the stressor.  Short bursts of stress are productive and can cause a person to perform at their best (creates new brain cells responsible for memory); however, long durations of stress (more than a few minutes) it has negative effects on a person’s mental stability as well as their physical performance by suppressing the brain’s ability to develop new cells.  Kirby states, I think intermittent stressful events are probably what keeps the brain more alert, and you perform better when you are alert.

The question is what to do to decrease the effects prolonged stress (which many of us deal with) has on us and increase our ability to Stay Calm in stressful situations:

Take time to note the things that you are grateful for. It does improve your mood and reduces cortisol by 23% (according to research from UC Davis).

Stop asking “What If”.  Things can go in a myriad of directions at any given time.  Don’t stress about something that doesn’t exist.

Think Positive. Yes it is that easy (or is it?) Thinking about something positive helps make stress intermittent by focusing your brain’s attention onto something that is completely stress-free. You have to give your wandering brain a little help by consciously selecting something positive to think about.

Disconnect: Turn off that cell phone. Taking regular time off the grid can help keep your stress under control. When you make yourself available to your work 24/7, you expose yourself to a constant barrage of stressors.

Sleep.  It increases your emotional intelligence and your ability to manage your stress levels. When you sleep, your brain literally recharges, shuffling through the day’s memories and storing or discarding them (which causes dreams), so that you wake up alert and clear-headed.

Stop the Negative Self-Talk. We tend to be our worst critics.  There is no rewind button so stop evaluating yourself based on situations from the past. Once you’ve taken a moment to slow down the negative momentum of your thoughts, you will be more rational and clear-headed in evaluating their veracity.

Most important and perhaps the hardest tip to implement:

Re-frame Your Perspective.  Stress and worry are fueled by our own skewed perception of events. It’s easy to think that unrealistic deadlines, unforgiving bosses, and out-of-control traffic are the reasons we’re so stressed all the time. You can’t control your circumstances, but you can control how you respond to them. So before you spend too much time dwelling on something, take a minute to put the situation in perspective. If you aren’t sure when you need to do this, try looking for clues that your anxiety may not be proportional to the stressor.

The lesson to take with you:  The bad news: Stress increases your risk of heart disease, depression, and obesity and decreases your cognitive performance. The good news: The majority of a person’s stress is subjective and under their control.

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