“The ability to manage your emotions and remain calm under pressure has a direct link to your performance.”  
– Dr. Travis Bradbury, author and emotional intelligence expert

There are many studies and research articles which indicate top performers share one key trait: the ability to remain calm in stressful situations.  These individuals are able to identify and regulate their emotions prior to reacting.  This is called Emotional Intelligence (EQ) and it’s deemed more important than IQ in determining one’s success.

Dr. Bradbury writes that stress can have detrimental effects on both “physical and mental health” because “prolonged stress causes degeneration in the area of the brain responsible for self-control.”  However, stress (which brings about varying levels of anxiety) is necessary in that it triggers a drive to complete tasks.  In fact, one’s performance is enhanced with moderate levels of stress.

What’s important is to strike a balance between unhealthy and healthy levels of anxiety.  Here’s how Dr. Bradbury recommends accomplishing that:

1. Appreciate what you have

Being grateful increases your mood and decreases stress hormones (cortisol).

2. Avoid asking “What if?”:

Focus on the task at hand!  Agonizing about what may happen only increases anxiety and stress.

3. Keep a positive mindset:

Positive thinking gives your brain time to recover.  You will have to proactively concentrate on positive events, either past, present, or future that can draw you away from negative thoughts.

4. Take time to disconnect:

Build time into your schedule to go completely “offline”.

5. Limit caffeine intake:

Drinking caffeinated beverages causes the release of adrenaline which is the source of the “fight or flight” response.

6. Sleep:

Sleep allows your brain to recharge, increasing emotional intelligence and managing your stress levels.

7. Put the kibosh on negative self-talk:

Don’t give power to negative and pessimistic thoughts.  In moments of self-doubt, write down your thoughts to evaluate once you are in a calmer, more level-headed moment.

8. Reframe perspectives:

You may not be able to control your circumstances, but you can control how you respond.

9. Breathe:

“The practice of being in the moment with your breathing will begin to train your brain to focus solely on the task at hand and get the stress monkey off your back.”

10. Use your support system:

People have different gifts; recognizing your weaknesses will reduce stress and build relationships with those on whom you rely.

Read Dr. Bradberry’s full article here.

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