4 Steps To Exploit Your Stress To Become A High Achiever

Professor Ian Robertson has devised a 'four-step brain hack to harness stress' and help people to turn pressure into positive energy.

The four-point plan is to 'tell yourself you are excited rather than stressed', then breathe in slowly through the nose for five seconds and then exhale for six, pose like a superhero, and squeeze your right hand shut for 45 seconds, open it for 15 and then shut it again.

Prof Robertson, chair of psychology at Trinity College Dublin, founder of the university’s Institute of neuroscience and author of The Stress Test: How Pressure Can Make You Stronger and Sharper, said, “Stress is a kind of energy that we can harness" improving performance and creativity.

'When you are facing up to a difficult situation and feeling anxious, it's enough to say "I feel excited" once out loud and that tricks your brain. It changes the mindset from "threat" to "challenging".'

Prof Robertson says of Step Two: 'By controlling breathing you can control the critical part of the brain and in that way exercise control over the emotional stage you are experiencing. When we are anxious, we forget to breath.'
As for Step Four, he says: 'Squeezing the hand gives a little boost to the brain. It increases activity in the left side of the brain. I always do it a few times before nerve-wracking presentations.'


STEP ONE - Tell your brain it is excited not anxious - repeatedly telling the brain it is excited changes how it will perform. Cortisol is produced when you feel stressed OR pumped-up. But how the mind reacts alters whether the it is beneficial or detrimental. Trying to persuade the brain to be calm does not work.

STEP TWO - Breathe in slowly for five seconds then out for six. This changes the chemistry in the brain and acts like an anti-anxiety drug.

STEP THREE - Adopt a superhero posture. Pump the chest out and stand up tall, triggering the 'fight' rather than 'flight' emotion. This tricks the brain into feeling confident.

STEP FOUR - Clench your right fist for 45 seconds, open it for 15 seconds, then close it again for 45 seconds. This switches on the left side of the brain to put you in a 'challenge' frame of mind, lessening anxiety, and improving performance. 


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