Imagine you’re part of a group of cave men, walking through the tall grass in the Savanna on the hunt for your next meal. Suddenly, a member of your group catches a glimpse of a lion out of the corner of their eye. The member motions to the other members of the group. In a split second everyone in the group goes on high alert, intensely focused on the movement of the lion. As if the entire group were one person, you all cautiously move away from the direction of the lion, never taking your eye off that lion, until everyone is out of harms way.
Stress is an evolutionary radar system whose purpose is to enable humans to single-mindedly focus on a single threat, until the threat no longer poses any danger. It gives us laser-like focus for a short period of time. Everything in our environment, other than the threat, fades into the background.
In the modern world, stress makes it possible for us to study for final exams, fight off a mugger and even defeat the Nazis. Stress allows us to solve pressing problems. But it comes at a cost. Stress is a negative emotion that causes our focus to become narrowed. It limits our ability to see anything but the problem. We get tunnel-vision.
We don’t work in the Savanna anymore. We work in offices, cubicles, manufacturing facilities and emergency rooms, where stress is all around us. When that stress sticks around, it perpetually limits our perception and our focus to one thing and one thing only. It inhibits our ability to be creative. We need to turn off stress in order to be able to creatively solve problems. Creativity, insight and Eureka moments require a positive mindset. Creativity requires a relaxed mind, one open to new ideas and new information. There are ways to turn off stress and relax our minds so that we can maximize our full potential:
- Laugh – When you are under stress, tune it out by finding something funny to distract you. Humor shuts down stress and shifts your mind from negative to positive.
- Meditate – A few minutes of meditation calms the mind and shuts down stress.
- Exercise – Lift weights, go for a run, do yoga or get on a StairMaster. Exercise decreases stress.
- Read – Reading something uplifting will shift your mindset from negative to positive and shut stress down.
- Watch an Inspiring Movie – Watching a movie that inspires, excites, makes you laugh or that takes you away to another place will turn off stress.
- Listen to Relaxing Music – Relaxing music relaxes the mind, turning stress off.
- Engage in Some Creative Activity – Paint, write or make something. Engaging in a creative activity puts stress on the bookshelf.
- Have a Beer – Moderate consumption of alcohol relaxes the mind. One to two drinks is all you need to put stress in its place. Just don’t over do it.
- Socialize – Hang out with a friend, volunteer at a local charity, go to a party or gathering. Socializing relaxes the mind and changes your mindset.
- Change Your Environment – Step away from your desk, cubicle or work area and into an environment that puts you in a good mood. This washes away your stress.