I was foam rolling and stretching while my mother and brother were watching Suits recently. As my analytical mind is always trying to capture lessons that I can use in my life to make myself more effective in serving others, I can not just simply watch a TV show passively.
It seemed to me that the show kept juxtaposing Harvey’s “alpha male” characteristics with the more frantic and reckless persona of Mike Ross. The first question that came to mind was: are people like Harvey just genetically hardwired to be calm and cool under pressure unlike mere mortals who seem to crumble under the pressure? Absolutely NOT!
Even though Harvey is calm and collected the vast majority of time, there are instances in which he loses control. Why is that? We all have a threshold of stress and ambiguity we can tolerate. Once our threshold is exceeded, we experiences negative emotions such as anxiety, anger, and depression. What separates the championship performers from the rest is that they have a greater threshold for dealing with stress and ambiguity.
So the real question is, is this threshold genetically determined and unchangeable? New research in neuroplasticity demonstrates that we can dramatically remodel our brain at ANY age. Therefore, if you want to perform your best under the bright lights you need to improve your stress threshold. How do you do that? Below are some of my favorite strategies:
- Meditation – I found that the meditation techniques that are best for beginners and allows them to sustain practice are binaural beats technology (ex. Om harmonics or Holosync), headspace (or other meditation apps), or Transcendental Meditation (however this is a very pricey option unless a student).
- Heart Math – This is a fairly recent innovative and cost-effective bio-feedback tool that dramatically increases performance. As there are more neurons that send information from your heart to your brain than the other way around, focusing on increasing your heart rate variability drastically improves your brain functioning. However, having feedback drastically improves the learning curve.
- Relaxation – Progressive relaxation techniques are one of the most means of inducing a deep state of relaxation. Conscious breathing works great as well: focus on a deep diaphragmatic inhale and a very slow exhale (take ~ 10 seconds to let the air out slowly). Inducing a deep relaxation response teaches your nervous system to be relaxed. The more you can relax during the day, the more likely you will be able to bring it up during intense moments of stress.
So if you want to remain calm and collected under intense moments of stress, use these modalities to increase your stress threshold.
Be Happy and Chase your Dreams,
PS Here are a couple of ways to connect with me if you have any questions or have any specific topics you would like me to address.