How do you control stress? If you ask a doctor, they would way take an antianxiety drug. If you would ask a U.S. Marine, they might say, “Stress, what stress?” But if you ask a psychologist, they would say, “You control stress with your mind.” This page provides the basic understanding needed to use the mind to control your stress and enhance your performance.
- Reduce The Impact of Stressors
- The Stress-Performance Curve
- The Yerkes-Dodson Law
- About Peak Performance
- How To Control Stress by Shifting The Curve
- Learn To Dial Down Stress
- Accessing Site Resources
- Related Pages
Reduce The Impact of Stressors
For those who like to run to the doctor for the magic pill, it’s essential to understand that ultimately relying on a chemical solution is not fixing the cause; it is only fixing the symptom.
Have you ever seen a disaster movie where an extreme stressor such as an earthquake happens? Some people panic. They lose it and likely die because we always make bad decisions when panicked. But others who face the same external stressor more calmly will have a much higher probability of getting through it.
The Stress-Performance Curve
The Yerkes-Dodson Law
On the right side of the curve, we do not deal with stress appropriately. If taking a test puts you in this zone, your mind will not do as well if you were at optimum arousal. Likewise, one can increase performance on the left side of the curve but only up to a certain point. If you are driving, you would have enough stress in the system to be mentally alert.
The Original Yerkes-Dodson Curves
Hebbian Version of the Law
About Peak Performance
This curve is the one that is most commonly used. And unless you are dealing with an overlearned task, it is the one that we assume applies to most activities we do at work.
You have all heard it from the performance gurus—perform at your peak. In effect, that means you increase your stress to a certain level. Too much, and you don’t perform well. Too little, and you don’t perform either. However, people typically don’t stay in their “peak performance zone.” So we might ask, do they move to the left, or do they move to the right?
How To Control Stress by Shifting The Curve
Option 1: Shift the Stress-Performance Curve To the Right
Option 2: Psych Yourself Up: Increase Stress To Peak Performance
Option 3: Relax Yourself: Move From Distress into Eustress
Control The Possibility of Panic
One of the most debilitating very of this is known as panic. Panic attacks are not predictable. There are essentially irrational, but that does not mean they are easy to control. So when you hear people’s descriptions of stress run amuck, you understand why.
Some theorists use the analogy of the normal distribution to say that one needs a relaxation phase after a performance phase and that one can avoid burnout by relaxing.
Avoid Burn Out
Burnout is not a medical term, but it can happen. It’s the last thing you want to have to happen to keep a job. Unfortunately, unlike panic, which lasts for around ten minutes, burnout can go on for months – long enough that you will surely lose your job. The first time I saw it was at the university. A student was very committed to her work in student government, working a job, and studying. It all became too much for her, and she couldn’t even concentrate enough to read books, let alone study. So, she ended up dropping out of class for the semester.
Too often, we slip to the right. As a result, we end up anxious, exhausted, or stressed out. These are relatively easy to deal with. However, one does not want the stress load to take you either into panic or burnout.
“Stress should be a powerful driving force, not an obstacle.” — Bill Phillips.
Stress relief consists of many different techniques that allow you to control your stress better. Not only that, but if you get good at this, you can not just manage your anxiety but set an optimal level to adjust your stress to the activity you are performing. This is the goal.
Learn To Dial Down Stress
Accessing Site Resources
Ford, Donovan (2014). Preparing For Weight Lifting Competition. jtsstrength.com, February 4.
Ascher, Jan and Tonies, Fleur (2021). How to Turn Stress into Optimal Stress, McKinsey Quarterly.
Yerkes, Robert M. andDodson, John D. (1908). The Relation of Strength of Stimulus To Rapidity of Habit Formation, Journal of Comparative Neurology and Psychology, 18, 459-482
A Guide to Psychology and Its Practice (2014). The Psychology of Stress.