How to Improve Your Stress Management Skills: 5 Tips for Better Performance and Wellbeing
In today’s fast-paced world, stress has become an unavoidable part of our lives. Like pain, stress is beneficial for a second to alert you that something needs your attention. However, if you’re continually feeling stressed, and you lack stress management skills, stress is not serving you; it’s sabotaging you.
“The number one negative emotion we experience around the world is stress,” says Shirzad Chamine, founder and CEO of Positive Intelligence®.
The good news is you can identify the root causes of stress and learn to minimize its effects through mental fitness training.
The anatomy of stress
Saboteurs are the voices in our heads that generate negative emotions in how we handle life’s everyday challenges. They represent automated patterns in our minds for thinking, feeling, and responding. They cause anxiety, self-doubt, frustration, restlessness, unhappiness, and stress.
“Typically, the most common lie of Saboteurs is stress,” says Chamine.
Conversely, your Sage, or your positive self, enables you to handle challenges with a clear and calm mind. Your Sage uses five primary powers: Empathize, Explore, Innovate, Navigate, and Activate. These powers are critical to managing your stress response.
You experience stress in your life on three different levels:
1. Thought level: When stressed, you realize there’s a Saboteur thought and it is a lie.
2. Focus level: When stressed, your focus is not quite on the present moment.
3. Brain activation level: When stressed, your survival brain region is activated, and your Sage is not present.
The science behind managing stress
Most of us know the left-right brain dichotomy. The analytical, rational parts live in our left brain, and the intuition and wisdom parts live in our right brain. But recent advances in functional MRI, which measures how neural activity changes blood flow, have allowed scientists and psychologists to witness the real-time working of the brain.
Now we can pinpoint the brain regions involved in producing different thoughts or feelings and the neural functions that activate our instincts to thrive or to survive.
The Survive Region: Your Inner Saboteurs
Saboteurs are the voices in your head that generate negative emotions when you handle life challenges. They exist in the brainstem, limbic, and parts of the left brain, producing much of your stress and mind chatter. These negative emotions alert you to dangers or issues. However, staying in these emotions hurts your ability to see clearly and choose the most impactful response.
The Thrive Region: Your Inner Sage
Your Sage lives in an entirely different region of your brain, the middle prefrontal cortex, “empathy circuitry,” and parts of the right brain. It generates positive emotions while handling life’s challenges. Your Sage inspires empathy, compassion, gratitude, curiosity, the joy of creativity, calmness, and clear-headed laser-focused action. This region is wired for creativity and big-picture awareness of what is important and the best course of action.
Neuroplasticity: The key to shifting the balance of power
Your brain is made up of neurons. When a signal travels down a neuron, it activates other neurons based on synapses. Which neuron will be activated? Every time a neuron activates another, they become more closely wired together, making the signal more likely to go in that direction. This constitutes a neural pathway.
Repeated actions become automatic. The Positive Intelligence (PQ) Program introduces a powerful PQ Rep technique (10 seconds of focusing on physical sensations like touch, sight, or sound). This technique trains your mind to intercept the old Saboteur responses so you can pause and choose a new Sage response. Repetition results in creating new neural pathways (Sage muscles) to counter the old Saboteur muscles. With the PQ Program, you’ll experience sustained positive change in your stress response.
Five tips for developing stress management skills
Stress management is the broad spectrum of techniques that help people control their stress levels. The purpose of stress management is to improve everyday functioning, both at home and in the workplace.
Try these five strategies to manage stress and improve your performance and wellbeing:
1. Try not to think your way out of stress.
The harder you try to think your way out of it, the more likely you will be to activate your Saboteurs (the survival part of your brain).
2. Do PQ Reps (10 seconds of focusing on physical sensations like touch, sight, or sound) to quiet your Saboteurs and activate your Sage.
Doing PQ Reps builds your ability to focus on the present moment and mitigate stress.
3. Approach stress management with your 5 Sage Powers in mind: Empathize, Explore, Innovate, Navigate, and Activate.
These powers provide calm, clear-headed focus and allow you to deal with a problem or issue while being in the present moment, reducing the stress, fear, and anxiety you feel.
4. Engage in Sage contemplation exercises in addition to doing PQ Reps.
You can do this by contemplating the lies your Saboteurs tell you and dismissing them as unhelpful, limiting beliefs.
5. Pay special attention to the Judge Saboteur (the master Saboteur) as it is the primary cause of stress.
Also, observe the accomplice Saboteurs to weaken their negative impact on your ability to manage stress and protect your wellbeing. Take the Saboteur Assessment to identify the Saboteurs that are holding you back.
Enhance stress management skills with mental fitness training
Because stress is the Saboteurs’ most common lie, it’s crucial to learn how to counter those lies to achieve optimal performance and wellbeing. You can substantially lower your stress levels by learning to intercept your Saboterus’ lies, pause, and choose a Sage response.
Stress may be an inevitable part of life, but managing stress effectively is within reach. Learning to intercept Saboteurs and embrace Sage Powers through mental fitness training can maximize your performance potential, strengthen your relationships, and improve your overall wellbeing and happiness.
Learn more about how the PQ Program for mental fitness can help you and your team manage stress, boost productivity, and improve wellness at work.