Train Yourself to Stay Calm Under Pressure

Reduce Stress Before It Starts

 

“No other species lives with regret over past events, or makes deliberate plans for future ones.” –Daniel Levitin


We’ve all been there. Just at the worst time, when you have no margin for error, something happens that throws off your schedule or pushes you over the emotional edge. Renowned neuroscientist, Daniel Levitin shares strategies for how to plan for the stressful events in advance and stay calm under pressure.

9780525954187Ever lose your keys? Can’t find your wallet? (Yes, I am speaking from experience!) The gradual process of an organized home and mind begins by thinking ahead and putting in to practice certain behaviors that eventually turn to habits. Losing keys or reading glasses can be prevented by continuously forming the habit of designating a special spot for each of these items. Having a hook by the door for the keys or a basket on a side table for the glasses will prevent future frustration. Otherwise, under stress, your body produces the stress hormone cortisol, clouding your thinking.

 

“Are there things that I can put in place that will prevent bad things from happening?”

 

Put Systems in Place to Think Ahead

Under stress our brains do not think rationally. By training yourself to think ahead, systems can be put in to place to altogether prevent or at least limit damage. Big decisions, like end of life wishes, can be made years in advance so to avoid decisions made in the heat of the moment. Questions like, do you wish to have a long life and live in pain or a shorter life with better quality, can be planned out with loved ones long before an illness is imminent.

 

“Multitasking has been found to increase the production of the stress hormone cortisol.” –Daniel Levitin

 

Listen to this talk, filled with practical tips for organization from a neuroscientist, Daniel Levitin. He also wrote a book expanding on his Ted Talk: The Organized Mind: Thinking Straight in the Age of Information Overload.

 

“Email, Facebook, and Twitter checking constitute a neural addiction.” -Daniel Levitin

Why Leaders Must Prioritize Health and Wellness

Prioritize Your Health

Leaders are especially vulnerable to stress. Often leaders put others first and sacrifice their own wellbeing in the process. That’s not a recipe for long-term success and often results in failure.

Danielle Harlan, PhD is the Founder & CEO of the Center for Advancing Leadership and Human Potential. She completed her doctorate at Stanford University and has taught courses at both Stanford Graduate School of Business and U.C. Berkeley Extension’s Corporate and Professional Development program.

After reading her book, The New Alpha: Join the Rising Movement of Influencers and Changemakers Who Are Redefining Leadership, I asked her about her research and experience in leadership health and fitness.

 

“A goal without a plan is just a wish.” –Antoine De Saint Exupery

 

Your Health and Your Leadership

When did you realize that prioritizing health was linked to leadership?

Leadership is fundamentally about being able to set a vision and persist over the long run as you lead yourself and others to take on big challenges and work toward the finish line, so it seems like making health a priority would be a no-brainer, right? I mean, it’s pretty obvious that taking care of ourselves affects our energy levels and stamina in the long run.

However, in my experience, this is the one aspect of personal excellence that leaders are most likely to struggle with—and this is true across industries, types of organizations, and roles. As the work piles up, self-care often takes a back seat to other more “pressing” priorities, which almost never leads to good outcomes in the long run.

 

“Nothing ever comes to one, that is worth having, except as a result of hard work.” -Booker T. Washington

 

More often than not, leaders who don’t prioritize their health either become unbearable to work with because they they’re dehydrated, or tired, or stressed, or “hangry”—or they start to get sick. I’ve worked with people who’ve developed diabetes, pre-diabetes, and even heart disease because they’ve put work ahead of their health. I’ve also known people who’ve gained or lost too much weight because of work and even someone who eventually had an aneurism. I’m not saying that there weren’t other factors that played a role in some of these cases, but all of these examples are of people who put work ahead of self-care, and I think they (and their teams and organizations) suffered for it.

After seeing this pattern of behavior and outcomes over and over again, it became clear to me that managing your health is a key component of being an effective human being and a successful leader.

Copyright Kate Haley Photography Copyright Kate Haley Photography

 

 

“Tomorrow belongs only to the people who prepare for it today.” –Malcolm X

 

The Dangers of Putting Work Ahead of Self

Why do you think so many people miss this important link (leadership / wellness) to their detriment?

I think putting work ahead of self-care actually comes from a good place—a desire to put forth our best effort and do as much good as possible, and people can be very effective in the short run by working this way (I’ve definitely had moments, for example, where I’ve sacrificed sleep in order to meet a big deadline).

The problem arises when we consistently put “achievement” ahead of our health and wellness, which simply isn’t sustainable in the long run—and I think The New Alpha gives people permission to re-prioritize their health and wellness, even if it means perhaps being slightly less effective on a few short-term tasks.

 

“Attitude is a little thing that makes a big difference.” –Winston Churchill

 

4 Steps to Improve Your Health Today