Posted by: mikeduckett | February 19, 2018

Are You Stressed or Performing Under Pressure?

Mind-Body Wellbeing

ache-adult-depression-expression-41253.jpegI’m sure that as a professional you know very well that the mind and the body are intimately connected – indeed you could say they are one and the same, unless you subscribe to Cartesian Dualism (there’s a phrase to drop into conversation!) but I digress. The point is, we’ve known for centuries that it’s the way your mind interacts with external events that determines how you perceive them.

Take a simple everyday experience – flavour. Flavour doesn’t come from the foodstuff itself. Scientists distinguish between taste, which is derived from the food, and flavour which is what you actually experience, which is a combination of taste and other senses plus your mind’s interpretation of these things.

Previously we talked about how the ancient practice of mindfulness has become popular as a means to stay focused on what’s happening in the present moment just as elite athlete’s do when they are performing.  Well one of the big areas of mindfulness application is in stress management and that’s a subject that comes up a lot with chefs!

There’s no denying that when tasks role in and deadlines shorten, the pressure often builds and it can keep building. However, it’s important to remember pressure is not the same as stress. Pressure can come from the outside world or inside your own head; staff can put pressure on you by making demands and on the other hand, you can put pressure on yourself by deciding something must be done within the next 10 minutes. Knowing where the pressure is coming from is useful in managing it but the important thing is to realise that wherever the pressure is coming from, inside or outside, only you can turn it into stress.

You must have heard many people say they work best under pressure but have you ever heard anyone say they work best under stress? Through mindfulness and other mental techniques you can become aware of the thoughts you are using to turn pressure into stress and make some changes. In this blog though, I’m interested in some of the simple physical interventions you can make to protect yourself from the debilitating effects of stress.

Make no mistake, stress can have debilitating effects on your mental capacity: your judgement, decision making and creativity, to mention just a few faculties, so it’s important to do everything you can to perform at your best even when the pressure is on. Because stress is a physiological response due to your body releasing a flood of hormones to prepare you to escape or stand and fight, as well  mindfulness you can take some simple physical steps to change your reactions. Here are just a few you might need reminding about:

Take exercise

Aerobic exercise that gets the blood circulating (brisk walking / running / cycling etc) will pay off in terms of using adrenalin and releasing the body’s natural endorphins in the brain that help bring back a sense of wellbeing. Can you take a take time out for even a few minutes just like all the top athletes do?

Watch what you drink

Reducing caffeine and sugar (watch out for chocolate!) and staying hydrated with plenty of water can have very important effects on your blood insulin levels and your heart rate, which then feed back into the brain and the way you think about what’s happening.

Get good quality sleep

The hours we work are rarely 9 to 5 so it’s vital that when you do get chance to sleep you do it well! This doesn’t just mean getting enough but equally importantly getting the right quality to allow your mind to go through all the sleep stages and be ready to wake up on form.

I’m sure much of this is familiar to you but I wanted to remind you that most of the high performing people I know don’t just know this stuff, they actually practice it and I’m convinced it’s part of their recipe for staying alert, thinking clearly, being creative and inspiring their teams.

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