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 intensely 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, becomes background noise and ignored.
In the modern world, stress makes it possible for us to study for final exams, send a man to the moon, fight off a mugger, and even defeat the Nazis.
Good Stress allows us to solve pressing problems.
But stress comes at a cost. Stress causes our focus to become very narrowed. It limits our ability to see anything but the problem. Stress forces us to have tunnel-vision.
Stress that sticks around too long is called chronic stress. Chronic stress damages the immune system, causes plaque to build up in arteries and can lead to high blood pressure, which could cause a stroke or heart attack.
Work-related chronic stress inhibits every stressed-out employee’s ability to solve company problems because it prevents employees from being able to see the bigger picture, due to the narrowing of focus effect that stress causes.
To stay healthy and solve problems in the workplace, we need to turn off stress.
Problem-solving, in particular, requires a relaxed mind. Only is a stress-free state are we able to creatively find solutions to problems.
So, how do you shut down stress and relax your mind?
- Laugh – Find something to laugh about. When you are under stress, find something funny to distract you. Humor shuts down stress and helps re-set you return to your emotional baseline.
- Meditate – Go to a bathroom stall and devote a few minutes to meditation. Meditation calms the mind, shuts down stress and helps you return to your emotional baseline.
- Exercise – Lift weights, go for a run or a walk, 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 – Music calms the savage beast. 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, for the moment.