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Stress, Your Mind, and Peak Performance

Aug 5, 2008
Stress is necessary for motivating us to perform at our best. But too much stress, or chronic unrelenting stress, can make us feel helpless and unable to concentrate. How can you learn to stay focused under stress?

The relationship between feelings and events

Albert Ellis, a prominent psychotherapist, developed a way to help people learn to control their emotions rather than feeling controlled by their emotions. His basic premise was that emotions had nothing to do with actual events but with the self-talk we engage in almost unconsciously about the event. This explains why two people can experience the same event and have different feelings about it.

Self-talk can be rational or irrational. An example of rational self-talk would be: "I find it unpleasant to be rejected." An example of irrational self-talk would be: "He/she has to like me." A clue that a thought is irrational is the presence of "should," "have to," "always," "never," and "must." Because self-talk is so instantaneous, it may take a while to catch yourself. One way to start is by becoming aware of your emotions and asking yourself what thoughts might have been going through your mind at the time of the incident right before you began experiencing these emotions. What belief about the way things "should" be do your thoughts represent?

Visualization and guided imagery

Visualization and guided imagery have also been found to be effective in enhancing performance. Visualization and guided imagery consist of focusing attention on healing, relaxing, being guided through an imaginary scene by a trained instructor, etc. We've all noticed how relating a story to a friend about something that made us angry, makes us angry all over again. Visualizing a peaceful scene and imagining the sights, sounds, smells, tastes, and feel of that scene can evoke a relaxation response. Your brain believes what it sees regardless of whether it's real or not. That's how movies evoke emotions in us. Visualizing success begins the process of success.

Thought stopping

Thought stopping is another method for dealing with stress and is very effective in overcoming excessive worry and doubt. This simple method involves using the command "stop" to interrupt the unwanted thought. Other thought stopping techniques involve snapping a rubber band around your wrist, pinching yourself, or pressing your fingernails into the palm of your hand. These methods act as a punishment and as a distraction to the thought and a more effective thought can be substituted. It is helpful to begin with a small unwanted thought and improving your skill at this technique before trying to extinguish a more stressful or phobic thought.
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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