Top 10 Ways to Manage Stress and Maximize your Performance

The ability to manage your emotions and remain calm under pressure has a direct link to your performance. 90% of top performers are skilled at managing their emotions in times of stress in order to remain calm and in control.

Although prolonged stress causes degeneration in the area of the brain responsible for self-control, stress (and the anxiety that comes with it) is necessary. Our brains take action only when we feel at least some level of stress. In fact, performance peaks under moderate levels of stress. As long as the stress isn’t prolonged, it’s harmless.

Research from the University of California - Berkeley, reveals an upside to experiencing moderate levels of stress, but it also reinforces how important it is to keep stress under control. The study found that the onset of stress helps the brain to grow new cells responsible for improved memory. However, this effect is only seen when stress is intermittent. As soon as the stress continues beyond a few moments into a prolonged state, it suppresses the brain’s ability to develop new cells.

Smart people employ the following top 10 effective strategies when faced with stress:

  1. Appreciate what you have

Taking time to contemplate what you’re grateful reduces the stress hormone cortisol by 23%.

2. Avoid asking “what if?”

Calm people know that asking “what if? will only take them to negative cycles of thought, which burn a lot of energy and time.

3. Stay positive

Positive thoughts help make stress intermittent by focusing your brain’s attention onto something that is completely stress-free. Consciously select something positive to think about, such as a happy memory or vacation plans.

4. Take exercise breaks to disconnect

Choose blocks of time where you go offline and exercise. Exercise reduces levels of the body’s stress hormones, such as adrenaline and cortisol. It also stimulates the production of endorphins, chemicals in the brain that are the body’s natural painkillers and mood elevators.

5. Limit your caffeine intake

Drinking caffeine triggers the release of adrenaline, a fight-or-flight mechanism that sidesteps rational thinking in favor of a faster response. Although a little caffeine can solidify new memories, too much caffeine can be counter-productive.

6. Sleep

When you sleep, your brain literally recharges, so that you wake up alert and clear-headed. Your self-control, attention, and memory are all reduced when you don’t get enough — or the right kind — of sleep. Sleep deprivation raises stress hormone levels on its own, even without a stressor present.

Maintain a regular sleep schedule. You should go to bed and wake up at about the same time each day. Your sleep schedule should also ensure adequate time in bed.

Avoid oversleeping on weekends. Although catching up on some sleep on the weekends can be helpful, sleeping in until noon on Sunday will make it hard for you to get back on a school schedule that night.

Take early afternoon naps. A nap of 15–20 minutes in the early afternoon can be beneficial.

Turn off televisions, computers, and radios. Television viewing, computer-game playing, internet use, and other stimulating activities at bedtime will cause problems falling asleep.

Avoid caffeine, smoking, alcohol, and drugs. All of these cause sleep problems.

Contact your doctor. Speak to your physician if you have difficulties falling asleep, snore, or are excessively sleepy during the day.

7. Squash negative self-talk

A big step in managing stress involves stopping negative self-talk in its tracks. The more you ruminate on negative thoughts, the more power you give them. Identifying and labeling your thoughts as thoughts by separating them from the facts will help you escape the cycle of negativity and move toward a positive new outlook.

8. Reframe your perspective

If you’re thinking in broad statements such as “Everything is going wrong” or “Nothing will work out,” then you need to reframe the situation. List the specific things that actually are going wrong or not working out. Most likely you will come up with just some things — not everything — and these stressors will look much more limited than they initially seemed.

9. Breathe

When you’re feeling stressed, take a couple of minutes to focus on your breathing. Close the door, put away all other distractions, and just sit in a chair and take deep breaths.

10. Use your support system

To be calm and productive, you need to recognize your weaknesses and ask for help when you need it. Find someone who is on your team, rooting for you, and ready to help you get the best from a difficult situation. Identify these individuals in your life and make an effort to seek their insight and assistance when you need it.

At Pandahug, our educational consultant is also trained in counseling to provide you the emotional support and academic advice you need to excel. Talk to a Pandahug educational consultant today, and let us help you maximize your performance.

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