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Stress can help your performance – but only if you learn to control it

Managing your emotions and remaining calm under pressure has a direct link to your performance, according to Travis Bradberry, writing for Forbes.com.

His consultancy, TalentSmart conducted research with over a million people, and found that 90% of top performers are skilled at managing their emotions in times of stress, allowing them to remain calm and in control.

The author also notes that new research from the University of California has revealed a positive aspect to experiencing moderate stress levels. A study led by post-doctoral fellow Elizabeth Kirby found that stress can entice the brain into growing new cells responsible for improving memory. However, this effect is only present when the stress is intermittent, and prolonged stress suppresses the ability of the brain to develop new cells.

This underlines the importance of controlling stress, and Bradberry shares some of the effective strategies successful people use when faced with stress. He insists the challenge lies in recognising when you need to employ them, in spite of the stress you might be suffering.

• Appreciating what you have. Taking time to assess what you have reason to be grateful for improves your mood because it reduces the stress hormone cortisol by 23%, according to research.

• Avoiding the question “what if?” Things can go in a multitude of directions, and “what if?” statements fuel stress and worry. The time you spend worrying about possibilities can be put to better use taking action in the present that will make the future better.

• Staying positive. Bradberry explains: “Positive thoughts help 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. Any positive thought will do to refocus your attention.”

• Sleeping. The author points out that sleep allows the brain to recharge itself, so you wake alert and clear-headed. Sleep deprivation raises stress hormones, so it’s important to get sufficient hours of sleep even if you feel too busy to do so.

• Using your support network. Staying calm and productive requires you to recognise your weaknesses and ask for help. Make sure you use other people’s skills as well as your own.

Source
Travis Bradberry