Stress has a terrible reputation these days and for good reason!  Many of us are juggling multiple hats: we have professional responsibilities, ambitions, and personal obligations and we also want to take good care of ourselves and share quality time with friends, family, and even with our colleagues. But trying to balance everything comes with a potential price: we feel overwhelmed and many times, we don’t know where to begin.

Despite its bad reputation, stress is needed. In fact, stress is a good thing!  Think about it for a second:  you just landed at Pearson Airport with 5 minutes to catch a connecting flight to Vancouver. You run through the airport with laser-focused eyes. You arrive at your connecting gate and you feel tired but happy to have been able to achieve your goal!

It was the thought of potentially losing your flight that triggered a stress response in your body which in turn, made you run like a cheetah (perhaps even while wearing heels!).  If that reaction had not taken place, you would have slowly walked your way to the connecting gate and, not surprisingly, would have missed your flight!  Now that you are comfortably sitting on your flight, you start to relax.

In this example, the trigger produced a positive stress response, propelling you into “action mode”. However, at times, the trigger might elicit a different stress response—paralysis or freezing. This isn’t the desired outcome. In instances such as when we receive feedback on a job submission that requires further editing, we might find ourselves dwelling on the feedback and feeling regret about not doing an exceptional job, instead of shifting into “action” mode and initiating the necessary adjustments to our work. Does this situation sound familiar? When these situations take place, we need to take action! We need to use the stressor and put it to good use.

Despite its bad reputation, stress is needed. In fact, stress is a good thing!

Here we are going to share with you two tools that, when used together, can help you turn stress into action in 5 minutes:

Minutes 1 to 4 – Play a Game!  Surprised?  When you are stressed, there is a part of your brain called the amygdala that becomes very active. The amygdala regulates emotions!  This is why, for instance, when you are asked to re-do a particular job because it didn’t meet the expectations or the original requirements, you tend to ruminate on the situation playing it again and again in your brain  In order to help suppress your active amygdala, you need to turn your attention to something else. Here is when the game comes into play.  A game that requires your cognitive or memory skills such as Sudoku or Word Search, will help you focus on the task at hand helping to quiet down the emotions triggered by the stressful event.  Find a game that works for you and keep it handy (it could be an app on your phone if you are so inclined!).

Minute 5 – Identify one action! Once you have taken 4 minutes to quiet down your amygdala, you will take 60 seconds to identify one action that you can take in order to move forward with the task/project or problem in front of you. Why?  When we become fixated on the problem, we shift our focus away from seeking solutions, subsequently diminishing our brain’s capacity to find answers. This isn’t about solving the entire problem in 60 seconds; it’s about reorienting your attention towards searching for a solution. It all begins with that one simple step, finding one small action that can enhance the situation.

Next time you find yourself overwhelmed or stressed remember to take 5 minutes to go from stress to action! If you want to read more articles on similar topics, we invite you to visit our website.

Contributing Authors:
Maria Virginia Anzola & Rosana Fernandez 
Co-Founders, The Flip Side