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How to Use Stress to Achieve Peak Performance

Jul 8, 2008
Did you know that stress is important to peak performance? It's true. Not enough stress and you're bored and unmotivated. Too much stress and you can't function. The trick lies in finding just the right balance to stay active and productive without feeling overloaded.

What exactly is stress?
Stress is the body's response to a stressor. Stressors can be the weather, traffic, deadlines, finances, births, deaths, illness, boredom, sports, first dates, breaking up, accidents, lack of sleep, grades, finals, family, holidays - the list is endless. Stress is your reaction to this.

A good amount of stress results in motivation to do your best, motivation to try hard, excitement about a challenge, calling upon resources (such as courage, organization, self-reliance) you didn't know you had, etc. Too much stress results in irritability, anger, depression, rumination, destructive fantasies, poor concentration and memory, insomnia, and other negative effects.

Why should you know about stress?
1) You can't avoid it. Stress comes from everywhere, everyday.
2) Peak performance depends on your learning to control it. You may not be able to control everything that happens to you (stressors) but you can control its affect on you (stress).

How does stress affect peak performance?
When your brain perceives a problem, real or imagined, it prepares you for an emergency. This is called the "fight or flight" response, which results in increased heart rate, increased breathing, increased muscle tension, and increased blood pressure. Hands and feet get cold because blood is directed away from extremities and digestive systems to large muscles for fighting or running. Adrenal glands secrete corticoids (adrenaline, epinephrine, and norepinephrine), which inhibit digestion, reproduction, growth, tissue repair, and responses of the immune and inflammatory systems.

Evolution has not changed our wiring. Our bodies still react in the same way to emergencies - except now the emergency isn't a saber-toothed tiger, it's deadlines, traffic, grades, and so on.

If the problem or challenge is something you want (such as getting married, having a baby, getting promoted, starting your own business) this reaction (stress) will keep you motivated to do your best.

If the problem or challenge is unwanted or perceived as insurmountable (i.e. unreasonable deadlines, bad boss, marital problems) this reaction (stress) may lead to unhealthy behaviors such as increased smoking, increased drinking, short temper, etc.

The good news is that you can learn to control these reactions. Awareness is the key. Because each person responds differently to different kinds of stressors, it's your reaction to the stressor that makes the difference! How much stress does it take to get you to peak performance and how much before stress takes over your body and mind?
About the Author
I have been helping people reach their personal and professional goals for the past 14 years. There's nothing more satisfying than helping someone reach their potential for success. I would like the opportunity to help you reach your goals. I am a Professional Coach with a Ph.D. in Psychology and a specialty in Goal Achievement and Transitions. Check out my website: www.ParamountTransitions.com then call me for a free consultation.
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