Nine Strategies Successful People Use to Overcome Stress

Posted on February 13th, 2013

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Have Self-Compassion

  • Cutting yourself some slack.
  • Being willing to look at your mistakes or failures with kindness and understanding - without harsh criticism or defensiveness.
  • A dose of self-compassion when things are at their most difficult can reduce your stress and improve your performance, by making it easier to learn from your mistakes.

Remember the “Big Picture”

  • Linking one particular, often small action to a greater meaning or purpose.
  • The “Why?” of getting healthier.

Rely on Routines

  • Every time you make a decision, you create a state of mental tension that is, in fact, stressful.
  • Reduce the number of decisions you need to make by using routines.
  • If there’s something you need to do every day, do it at the same time every day.
  • Have a routine for preparing for your day in the morning, and packing up to go home at night.
  • Simple routines can dramatically reduce your experience of stress.
  • Routinize yourself.

Take Five (or Ten) Minutes to Do Something You Find Interesting

  • It doesn’t matter what it is, so long as it interests you.
  • Interest replenishes your energy.
  • Replenished energy flows into whatever you do next.
  • Interesting is not the same thing as pleasant, fun, or relaxing (though they are certainly not mutually exclusive.)
  • Interesting does not have to mean effortless.

Add Where and When to Your To-Do List

  • If-then planning (or what psychologists call “implementation intentions”).
  • Deciding in advance when and where you will complete a task can double or triple your chances of actually doing it.
  • Add a specific when and where to each of your to-do items.

Use If-Thens for Positive Self-Talk

  • If-then plans can help us to control our emotional responses to situations in which we feel fear, sadness, fatigue, self-doubt, or even disgust.
  • Simply decide what kind of response you would like to have instead of feeling stress, and make a plan that links your desired response to the situations that tend to raise your blood pressure.
  • “If I see lots of emails in my inbox, then I will stay calm and relaxed,”
  • “If a deadline is approaching, then I will keep a cool head.”

See Your Work in Terms of Progress, Not Perfection

  • Get-Better mindset - focus on developing your ability and learning new skills.
  • There is a difference between wanting to show that you are smart vs. wanting to get smarter.
  • Self-comparison and a concern with making progress
  • How well are you doing today, compared with how you did yesterday, last month, or last year?
  • Think about what you are doing in terms of learning and improving, accepting that you may make some mistakes along the way.

Think About the Progress That You’ve Already Made

  • “small wins” - keep us going, particularly in the face of stressors.
  • Psychologically, it’s often not whether we’ve reached our goal, but the rate at which we are closing the gap between where we are now and where we want to end up that determines how we feel.
  • Take a moment and reflect on what you’ve accomplished so far before turning your attention to the challenges that remain ahead.

Know Whether Optimism or Defensive Pessimism Works for You

  • Is “staying positive” right for you?
  • Do you spend your life pursuing accomplishments and accolades, reaching for the stars or are you busy fulfilling your duties and responsibilities—being the person everyone can count on?
  • Identify your focus, and then embrace either the sunny outlook or the hearty skepticism that will reduce your stress and keep you performing at your best.   Reference:


Nine Ways Successful People Defeat Stress | Harvard Business Review

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