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Nine Ways Successful People Defeat Stress

| March 26, 2013

by Jim Bruce

Grant Halvorson, associate director of the Motivation Science Center at the Columbia University Business School, notes that everyone who is a professional in today’s workplace experiences bouts of extreme stress.  So, it’s not whether you are going to experience stress but what you are going to do about it.  His Harvard Business Review blog essay offers nine scientifically-proven strategies for reducing stress and today’s reading focuses on the first four:

1.  Have self-compassion.  In other words, cut yourself some slack!  People who are self-compassionate are happier, more optimistic, and less anxious and depressed; and more successful.  That’s right, more successful.

2.  Remember the “Big Picture.”  Anything can be thought of in more than one way.  Halvorson notes that we can think of “exercising” in Big Picture terms as “getting healthier” (the why of what we are doing) or the how of what we’re doing, “running two miles.”  The Big Picture terminology can be energizing as it gives what we are doing more meaning and purpose.

3.  Rely on Routines.  One of the most stressful things in each of our lives is making decisions.  It shows up everywhere – deadlines, workload, bureaucracy, managers, …  Few people would say that making decisions are a heavy stressor, but the truth of the matter is that every time you make a decision you create a state of mental tension that is stressful.  If you create simple routines to handle recurring situations, you reduce stress.  You already have some of them – for example, the routine you follow between when the alarm clock goes off and you leave your house going to work.  President Obama in his Vanity Fair interview said “I’m trying to pare down on decisions.  I don’t want to make decisions about what I’m eating or wearing.  Because I have too many other decisions to make.  You need to focus your decision-making energy.  You need to routinize yourself.  You can’t be going through the day distracted by trivia.”

4.  Take five (or ten) minutes to do something you find interesting.  Interesting is not the same as fun or relaxing and it isn’t necessarily effortless.  Take a break to do something really interesting.  It won’t be a waste as research shows that it actually replenishes your energy.

If you have some extra time, explore Halvorson’s other five “ways”:

5.  Add “where” and “when” to your to-do list.

6.  Use if-then’s for positive self-talk.

7.  See your work in terms of progress, not perfection.

8.  Think about the  progress that you’ve already made.

9.  Know whether optimism or defensive pessimism works for you.

Take one or two of the four items for today and work on them this week.  I learned some time ago to take a break to do something interesting so I’m working on remembering the bi picture and creating routines.  What about you?

. . .jim