Welcome to our final module - Perform Better! I think it’s a good idea to launch this module by recognizing the presence of stress in our lives and making choices about how to respond. The reason for this is that if we can rise to the challenges that we are faced with, perform to our potential, then recover and regenerate optimally we will ultimately reach our potential.

So in this post, I want to share with you how to use stress to your advantage and minimize its negative effects so you can perform better.

Surprised that there are advantages to stress? Many people are. But stress is a lot like food: none at all is bad for us and too much can make us sick. We can learn to lower stress levels and help our bodies and minds to recover after periods of high stress.

Each of us has different stresses in our lives, and what bothers one person may not even register for another. But here’s what we have in common: our brains perceive a stressful situation as a threat. We respond to threats in our environment (sabre-tooth tiger or competition for food) by increasing our ability to perform physically and mentally (run faster or fight better). We activate a cascade of events that involve the brain, the spinal cord and a number of endocrine glands that release hormones.

The activation of the nervous system and the powerful effect of hormones improves our brain function and the strength and power of our muscles. The upside is that we are built to improve our performance. The problem is that running and fighting are not acceptable responses when your teacher announces an upcoming project or test.

So while we’re surrounded by many stress triggers, the answer isn’t to eliminate stress. There is upside and downside. We’re going to look at both, so you can perform better than ever.

Today's POWER-UP: Micro-Breaks

THE KEY TO MANAGING CHRONIC STRESS IS TO BREAK IT UP AND TO TAKE BREAKS. BUILD MICRO BREAKS INTO YOUR DAYS.

THE ANALOGY FOR HOW TO DEAL WITH CHRONIC STRESS IS THIS: IMAGINE HOLDING A GLASS OF WATER UP WITH A STRAIGHT ARM OUT TO THE SIDE OF YOUR BODY. FOR A FEW MINUTES ITS EASY TO HOLD THE WATER. BUT AFTER AWHILE THE DISCOMFORT BUILDS UP AND EVENTUALLY BECOMES PAINFUL. BUT WHEN YOU TAKE A BREAK THE BODY RECOVERS AND REGENERATES.

GIVEN BREAKS BETWEEN STRESSORS WE EVEN BECOME STRONGER. WITHOUT THE BREAKS WE GET INJURED AND SICK. SO THE NEXT TIME YOU'RE STUDYING FOR A BIG TEST SEE IF YOU CAN ADD A FEW BREAKS TO YOUR ROUTINE. GO FOR A WALK, DRINK SOME WATER, MEDITATE, OR TALK TO A FRIEND.

Dive Deeper

Check out this TED talk by Kelly McGonigal on how to make stress your friend.