Bywater Consulting Group, LLC
Liz Bywater, PhD

September 2008

Stress Management for Optimum Performance (Part Two)

Stress: (noun) a state of mental or emotional strain or tension resulting from adverse or very demanding circumstances (e.g. he's under a lot of stress); something that causes such a state.

Sound familiar? It should. The fact is, stress is ubiquitous. There's no avoiding it, eliminating it, or wishing it out of existence. Stress is a very real part of life. Its impact can be great and it must be dealt with accordingly.

In our last discussion, we addressed some essential but often-neglected basics of stress management: eating well, getting a good night's sleep, breathing properly, and engaging in regular exercise. While these may seem like no-brainers, they can be deceptively difficult to adhere to in the midst of looming deadlines, workplaces crises, and intense pressure to perform. Deliberate attention is required in order to properly defend yourself from the potential toll taken by the demands and pressures of work and home life. It helps to be armed with a full arsenal of strategies for combating stress. Here are several more you can try:

Keep your eye on the Big Picture. It's a simple formula: intense work pressure - inspiration = stress. When demands are high and direction lacking, motivation plummets and stress sets in. The antidote? Don't waste precious time on low impact, non-essential tasks. Instead, dedicate your time and attention to those activities that move you in the direction of reaching your vision and achieving your goals.

Share the load. No matter how talented or experienced you may be, you simply cannot do it all. Delegate where appropriate. Collaborate. Divvy the workload. Share responsibility for the final product. It's a winning formula for all involved and a great way to combat stress.

Strive for success - but let go of perfection. Do your job well, really well, and your achievements will be recognized and rewarded. If you expect perfection, however, you're just setting yourself up for failure. As it turns out, human beings simply aren't hardwired to do things perfectly. So embrace your humanity - and that of your coworkers - by expecting and accepting excellent, if flawed, performance.

Celebrate your wins. It's not unusual for high performers to continually raise the bar for themselves. They're rarely satisfied with their accomplishments and perpetually seek to do more, achieve more. And quite often, they do just that. The downside here is that they often experience a tremendous amount of pressure (i.e., stress). It's vital to balance this striving for excellence with a healthy celebration of successes. Don't be afraid to acknowledge what you've accomplished. Remember, success is contagious. And celebrating success is a wonderful antidote to stress.

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Liz Bywater, PhD
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