for a strong, fast pick-me-up
Can you relate to any of these common work problems?
You are in the office and get “bad news” by e-mail of a project falling over or getting delayed. You get disappointed. You worry about lost revenue. You stress out.
You are busy working on something that’s important to you – when someone in the office interrupts you and wants to “hijack” your time for something that’s important to them. You get angry at them AND you stress out that you are losing time to do your project.
You get an unexpected task presenting task “dumped” on you at the last minute. You have to fill in and give a presentation that was supposed to be delivered by someone else – but they are sick or too busy. You get asked to give an impromptu welcome or farewell speech. You are the type of person who likes to be prepared. You get annoyed and stress out.
In a previous post, (Enjoy the red lights!) I shared how you can use certain prompts or triggers to remind you to automatically execute good, healthy behaviours – such as when you are driving and you get a red light that delays you, you see how many deep, calming breaths you can fit in while you wait for the light to change.
Well, you can apply the same technique at work to help you stay calm in stressful situations. Not only will you handle the stress better – you’ll reduce the chances you have an angry outburst that damages a working relationship with a client or colleague.
I am particularly interested in staying calm and performing well in stressful situations because I personally have had to learn to control my reactions and sometimes “disproportionate responses”. I was lucky to get feedback that my disproportionate response was often withering sarcasm and clever but wounding insults ( I’m still working on it – but making good progress.)
I now help other busy professionals keep calm in stressful work situations. If you haven’t noticed yet – the workplace is getting more and more stressful with more demands and fewer resources.
Some execs get verbally angry or abusive at people – others internalise their frustration and bottle up so much stress.
To paraphrase Clint Eastwood in Dirty Harry – A good man knows his limitations (as well as his strengths)
Here’s what we can do – to improve the way we handle stressful situations.
1. Be aware of situations that cause you stress. (For me, it’s getting interrupted and getting your time “hijacked”. I work hard to organise myself and be reliable. I get stressed and annoyed when others don’t do the same when it negatively affects my work.)
2. Develop “calming counter-measures”
3. Take back control and respond calmly
I’ll simplify the wealth of serious research into staying calm in stressful situations.
Put a pause between the stimulus and your response.
When you get the stimulus that could potentially cause stress and a negative response from you – deliberately create a pause or a gap. It could be as little as 10 seconds.
In that gap/pause – you take back control and respond in a calm and positive way.
Back to that deep breaths at the red light example and applying it to work
These days, instead of responding to a disappointing “bad news” e-mail straight away, I’ve conditioned my self to create that pause before I respond. It’s as if I visualise a red light that:
1. warns me of potential danger
2. encourages me to stop and wait and take those deep,calming breaths as I do when I am driving around and I get stopped by red lights.
If this sounds a bit “new agey” to you, please let me assure you that this tactic of pausing and taking back control and selecting your best response is now used in serious and highly successful businesses.
Military and law enforcement training in the US often includes using calming, breaths as “a bridge back to control” in stressful situations.
When we get stressed, our field of vision narrows, we breath shallowly, our heart rate increases, our hands shake. Simple tasks seem difficult. Our attention and focus shatters.
Putting that gap between stimulus and response and taking back control and slowing down with calm, deep breaths helps you respond appropriately.
I am blessed to have a wide circle of experts I call upon when I help business executives stay calm in stressful situations.
Theatre experts help deal with anxiety and “stage fright” and “going blank” under pressure.
Military experts help deal with stress when you have to respond quickly and yet calmly to surprises and “ambushes”.
I am a Rugby fan – and I learn from rugby coaches how top players stay calm and perform at their best under immense pressure. Watch how the goal kicking specialists calm themselves and breathe and focus and block out all negative stimuli.
Even tough rugby players use the power of calming breathing and focus!
I’ll share more about what we can learn from rugby kickers in a future post.
The main thing for you from THIS post.
1. Be aware of what causes stress with you.
2. Practise those deep calming breaths BEFORE YOU NEED THEM. I use the opportunity of red lights to do it – you can do it anywhere. Experience how calming it feels
3. Visualise a red “warning” light as you start to feel stressed and stop/pause as you would at at red light and take at least 3 long, deep, calming breaths.
I often get serious clients say “I’m too busy for this breathing BS!”.
I teach them that you can do it in as little as 25 seconds. They find the benefits of clarity of mind and reduction of stress if worth 25 seconds.
Here’s a link to the calming power of belly breathing.
It’s important to remember to breathe deeply and slowly with deep “belly breaths” or diaphragmatic breathing. There’s even a technique called “the sniper’s breath” – that name appeals to more macho clients
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These days, lots of people and organisations need help with how to COPE with too much work, too much stress, too much information, too many meetings, delivering difficult news, business writing, effective e-mail, e-mail overload, cross-cultural communication, better social media engagement etc. I like to help people COPE.