Written By Sarah Hodges
Have you ever noticed that in times of stress, you make unusual mistakes? You may repeatedly misplace your phone, lock your keys in your car, or forget to put out the trash. At work, you lose emails, forget appointments, or just feel unmotivated.
When this happens, most people chastise themselves (or each other) for their forgetfulness or laziness. Unfortunately, responding harshly to yourself adds to the overall feeling of stress, leading to more mistakes and a lack of motivation. It can quickly become a vicious cycle.
So, how can you stay focused, productive, and motivated in times of stress? Here are five quick tips:
#1. Step into the present.
We often cope with stress by continually thinking. We obsess about what is wrong and how we can make it go away, but this does more harm than good because our brains need time to rest and recover in order to think clearly. So, immerse yourself in the job at hand. Even if it’s just doing the dishes or brushing your teeth, your brain will appreciate the much-needed rest from problem-solving.
#2. Let go.
Acknowledge the uncertainty and stress, and label how it makes you feel. This technique can help you separate yourself from the stressful situation so you can see it from a broader perspective. Then evaluate what is currently unchangeable. What do you have to let go of? Detach yourself from what you can’t control, and you will feel more energized.
#3. Give yourself a break.
When faced with uncertainty and stress, we often think the solution is just trying harder, but the truth is that a little self-compassion goes a long way. Self-compassion promotes resiliency and motivation, so take a moment to ask yourself, “What would my best friend say to me right now?” and/or “How can I be a little kinder to myself?”
#4. Slow down.
Under chronic stress, our brains resort to lower brain function, so we don’t think as clearly. This means it’s a good idea to slow down and double-check your tasks. You could also benefit from taking more time to plan. By pausing for a few extra minutes to prioritize the day ahead, you’re creating a sense of certainty, which helps you relax and feel more confident.
#5. Get moving (but not too much).
Our bodies don’t know if a threat is physical or mental. They’re just hard-wired to fight or flee when we feel unsafe, so engaging in a little physical movement can help the body process the stress it’s experiencing. Just be careful that the movement isn’t too intense, or you can exacerbate the physiological stress response. Start by taking a long walk during your next conference call and evaluate how you feel.
The next time you find your cell phone in the fridge or accidentally miss a scheduled meeting, remind yourself to step into the present moment, let go of what you can’t control, give yourself a break, slow down, and move your body. Before you know it, you’ll manage stress like a ninja.
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