Feeling a bit frazzled? Professor Ian Robertson is here to save the day.
Work wouldn’t be work if it wasn’t a little bit stressful from time to time.
But by familiarising yourself with these 18 simple tips, you can help minimise that tension.
Professor Ian Robertson is a clinical psychologist and cognitive neuroscientist. He is also the author of The Stress Test, a book that reveals how we can shape our brain’s response to pressureand answers the question ‘Can stress ever be a good thing?’
Here, the Prof. offers 18 simple steps to help you avoid getting frayed nerves in the workplace, including…
How to naturally produce a brain-enhancing chemical
The best way to sit at your desk
A simple trick to help you when you get stuck
1. Stop your mind from wandering
A wandering mind is an unhappy mind. If you learn to control your attention and focus better, it can improve your mood and reduce stress.
2. Produce a natural, brain-enhancing chemical whenever you like
Norepinephrine is easy to make. Just follow this three-step self-alert trick: sit up straight, take a deep breath and say your own alertness command – Focus! or Awake! or Alert! or Now! Do this as often as you need to until it becomes a habit.
3. Plan your day around whether you’re a morning or an evening person
You probably already know whether you’re a morning or an evening person. Higher alertness at your preferred time means better performance, faster learning, better memory and an improved focus that lifts your mood and lowers stress.
Plan your day to lift your alertness at low times using self-alerting, brisk exercise, luxurious stretching in your chair or alerting drinks like coffee; schedule the boring, routine tasks for these down times, leaving the challenging ones for your alert time of day.
4. Spend two minutes to make some positive notes
Write down the good things that have happened today, however small – from a tree in blossom to a belly laugh at a funny story – choosing small positive memories makes it easier for your brain to throw up further positive thoughts
5. Have some self-respect
Self-respect helps you see the opportunity in stress, not just its downside, and gives you the impetus to go on through tough times.
6. If you feel stuck, complete a simple task
Set a simple goal that is neither too easy nor too difficult. Just achieving a small goal changes your brain through a tiny injection of success. Then it’s easier to achieve another, more challenging goal.
7. Do something active!
Action is one of the most powerful ways of changing your emotions and actions. Just doing something – anything! – can trick the brain into creating the thoughts and emotions that go with the action. In other words: fake it till you make it.
8. Adopt a ‘power pose’
Stand or sit like a boss – head up, shoulders straight, occupying space – this boosts confidence-building hormones and can help switch your brain into confident mode. Do it to make you feel confident and “in charge” by changing the chemistry of your brain.
9. Lightly clench your right hand
Lightly clenching your right hand lifts mood and boosts confidence by changing the right-left balance in the front part of your brain. Do it to make you feel confident and “in charge”.
10. Remember this key fact about your emotions…
Fear, Anxiety, Anger, Lust and Excitement have similar bodily symptoms – beating heart, sweaty palms, rapid breathing, flushed skin – it is our thoughts and the context that make them feel so different
11. Say, “I feel excited”
These three words can boost your performance in a nerve-wracking situation. Nervousness and excitement have the same symptoms – only the thoughts distinguish them. Just saying “I feel excited” changes the emotion and actually makes you perform better.
12. Think of “challenges” rather than “threats”
In a difficult situation, this simple thought can turn anxiety into eager anticipation. Thinking of the situation as a challenge, not a threat, emboldens you and equips you better to deal with it.
13. Be careful with your anger
You can use anger to energise you after bad things have happened, but it can easily make you feel worse if you don’t handle in properly.
Suppressed or purposeless anger raises stress hormones like cortisol, and also blood pressure.
Re-thinking your anger, or expressing it in constructive ways, has the opposite effect.
14. “It’s not fair!” will just make you miserable
IT’S NOT FAIR! Without specific action, the anger this thought causes will make you feel worse and make it harder for you to get the angry thoughts of injustice out of your mind
15. Stress can make you emotionally stronger
Moderate levels of stress can build resilience and make you a better coper.
16. Stress can make you mentally sharper
Moderate levels of stress can improve your mental sharpness by boosting alertness hormones in the brain.
Working through stress – “reappraisal” – can benefit you cognitively.
17. Failure can lead to greater creativity and new beginnings
Bad experiences like failure can have good side effects when they force you to give up your current goals and re-think your own priorities.
18. Try one simple mental trick to help see you through tough emotional experiences
Emotional pain can be lessened by ‘self-distancing’, whereby you adopt a watchful but slightly detached perspective on your own emotions and thoughts.
About The Stress Test The Stress Test is a revelatory study of how and why we react to pressure in the way we do, with real practical benefit to how we live.