At the Stress Management Institute we believe that using specific tools and strategies you can often harness “bad stress”, and change it, to create “good stress” that can enhance your life and your health.

Recently I read an article that runs parallel with the way we think about stress. My summary follows.

Prof Ian Robertson, Chair of Psychology at Trinity College Dublin, and founder of the Universities Institute of Neuroscience, and author of The Stress Test: How Pressure Can Make You Stronger and Sharper, said… “Channelling stress into a positive energy can radically improve performance and creativity, making people brighter and quicker. Stress is a kind of energy that we can harness”.

His viewpoint is outside the parameters of current thinking which has demonised stress, blaming it for causing chronic anxiety, which in turn is responsible for everything from obesity to cancer and even premature ageing.

Most psychologists encourage people to chase happiness, and steer clear of too much pressure. However, Prof Robertson says… ”stress is important for achievement and it is possible to hack the brain and hijack the fight or flight hormones, such as cortisol and adrenaline, before they cause problems”.

His four-step guide, he says, is underpinned by science. “Even Step One in which a person feeling stressed should simply say out loud, perhaps only once or twice: “I feel excited.”

Prof Robertson says… “When you are facing up to a difficult situation and feeling anxious, it’s enough to say ‘I feel excited’ once out loud and that tricks your brain. It changes the mindset from a threat to a challenge”.

Step Two requires the person to control their breathing.

“By controlling your breathing you can control the critical part of the brain and in that way exercise control over the emotional stage you are experiencing. When we are anxious, we forget to breath often,” Prof Robertson said.

The idea of Step Three, Prof Robertson says… “is the striking a Superhero pose – it might look odd in the street but, it has been found to increase testosterone levels in both men and women. That in itself is enough to make you feel more confident in the face of a stressful challenge.”

Step Four is to squeeze the hand and then release it and repeat. Prof Robertson says… “Squeezing the hand gives a little boost to the brain. It increases activity in the left side of the brain. I always do it a few times before delivering nerve-wracking presentations. The stress hormone cortisol is a symptom of anxiety, but also excitement. When you are anxious or excited you can feel your heart going bang, bang, bang, and the same hormone affects you differently only depending on the context that your mind imposes upon it. If you are anxious cortisol will impede performance, but if you are excited, we know that it boosts performance.”

Prof Robertson says… ”There are so many little mind hacks we can use on the brain. It a programmable machine. Stressful situations and life traumas can trigger incredible feats of creativity which allow people to achieve far more than they would have in happier times.”

If you would like to immerse yourself in two days of creating your own unique Stress Management Toolkit with tools and strategies that build your resilience and teach you how to convert ‘bad stress’ into ‘good stress’, then join us in Brisbane on 22 & 23 October for the Stress to Strength Experience Workshop. We have a fantastic team of qualified Stress Management Practitioners who will guide and mentor you through the processes. Plus you’ll have lots of fun and go home relaxed and de-stressed.

To join us, register at www.stresstostrength.com/experience/

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