If you've ever done a simple Google search about how to beat stress you'll get a million different articles with a million different tips. Though these tips can all be helpful in different ways for different kinds of people, though, one of things that might be the most useful is stress advice from "successful" people — high achievers who have succeeded not only despite the stresses they face in their lives at their job or at home, but sometimes even because of them. Reading books, meditating, and using different apps and gadgets that monitor your anxiety and keep it in check are all well and good, but there's definitely something to be said for going right to the source.
According to Tim Judge, a psychologist from the University of Florida, people who feel they control the events in their lives, rather than feeling like the events control them, end up accomplishing more at the workplace. Why? Because the way they deal with stress in general differs greatly from the way people who feel that events control them (instead of the other way around) deal with it. According to Judge's research, people who feel in control of the events in their lives don't get overwhelmed when they're hit with something unexpected, tough, or even seemingly impossible to deal with. As such, they are able to perform better than everyone else because their anxiety fuels passion instead of despair.
Now, not everyone is hardwired like this. I certainly panic when under pressure; I also feel like I have absolutely no control of the situation when I'm blindsided by a task or certain information. But have no fear! Dr. Travis Bradberry, President at TalentSmart, has five pieces advice for people who have a hard time channeling their anxiety and stress into something positive in the wake of an unexpected event. Here's how to deal with stress in a productive way, as demonstrated by highly successful people:
1. Expect and Prepare for Change
Life is a thing that constantly moves, fluctuates, and changes direction without even the slightest warning. Whether it's a change in your home (your parents decide to get a divorce; your long-lost aunt suddenly shows up and moves in; the dog dies), a change in your social life (your girlfriend breaks up with you; your best friend decides to go abroad for a year; suddenly your clique only wears pink on Thursdays), or a change at work (you're removed from a project you were really enjoying; your deadline for something is shortened; your boss fires the person you were having a work affair with), unexpected things are always going to happen. The only thing that's certain in this life is uncertainty! Dr. Bradberry suggests not only that you prepare yourself for these changes, but also that you go so far as to make a list of things that could concievably change in certain parts of your life. That way, you'll be sharper and better prepared when it does happen.
2. Focus on What You Can Do, Not What You Can't
Though we can't always stop bad things from happening to us, we can usually control the response we have to them. Dr. Bradberry suggests, once again, making a list when something negative or unexpected happens: Jotting down all the ways your actions can have a positive impact on the outcome of a negative event might help you channel your feelings in a more productive way.
3. Re-write Your Mental Script
Remember the episode of Spongebob where he has to forget about everything he's ever known except "fine dining and breathing" so that he can provide exceptional food service to Squilliam Fancyson? Well, Dr. Bradberry suggests doing something like that when faced with a challenge: Take the response you've usually had to stress and hardwire yourself to have a different one. Though it's a good piece of advice, I think it's important to remember that this sort of hardwiring doesn't happen overnight. It takes practice, commitment, and constantly putting yourself in a place that might temporarily make you a little uncomfortable. And, most importantly, it's OK to fail at it when you try it at first! Re-writing the script can only be done when you know which scripts do and don't work.
4. Stop Negative Self-Talk
This piece of advice goes not only for combatting stress, but also for your life in general. Dr. Bradberry advises people to never say never, "worst," or "ever" in relation to your abilities. I personally advise you to listen to Christina Aguilera's 2002 hit "Beautiful" until you believe it to be true about every part of you.
5. Count Your Blessings
Research shows that constantly reminding yourself to be thankful and appreciative and not taking the good things in your life for granted sets people up for less stress and more success.
So, basically: be ready for change, be aware of your freedoms, be kind to yourself, be thankful for what you have, and be willing to compromise and watch the stress melt away.