Imagine you’re about to give a speech to several colleagues and VIPs. While you’re backstage, do you:
a) Perform breathing exercises to create a sense of calm, or
b) Get excited?
If you chose (a), read on . . .
This research comes straight from Harvard Business School professor Alison Wood Brooks. She asked hundreds of people if they should calm down or be excited when they were about to give a presentation to a huge group. Almost everyone (91%) said they should try to be calm.
Then she had a group of students who were actually getting ready to give a big speech repeat to themselves, “I am calm.” And had others repeat, “I am excited.”
Can you guess what happened?
The group who had been excited felt less stress than the ones who were aiming to stay calm. And the observers found those “excited” speakers to perform with more confidence and competence.
The theory is that they transformed their anxiety into excitement.
Studies show that when students view stress as helpful rather than harmful, their scores are better.
This also has translated into well-being at work for doctors. Those who perceived anxiety as helpful were less likely to experience burnout or frustration.
So how can we use this information to help us beat burnout?
You may not have any control over the things that cause stress and anxiety each day, but by changing your mindset and shifting how you think about stress, you can use it to your benefit.
The key is to learn how to make it work for you. Here’s how:
When you’re stressed in the O.R. or office and you’re kicked into high gear, try telling yourself that your wheels are turning faster and thus you’re headed for a better outcome.
The same way you can conquer a fast-moving river by flowing with the current instead of against it, there may be some truth to this theory.
I did this myself when I gave my TEDx talk to over 2,000 people. I chose to channel the excitement of the day, rather than to remain calm. (Seriously, who can remain calm on a day like that, anyway?)
Here’s what I think – stress, per se, does not help us function better. But having the mindset that stress can be a good thing just may make our stressful experiences less exhausting.
When you take a stressful situation, and acknowledge “this is stressing me out,” it allows you to get out of “reaction” mode. And lets you move into a mindset of control.
Try it this week, and let me know if it makes a difference!