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5 Ways To Turn Stress Into Productivity

5 Ways To Turn Stress Into Productivity

Stress prevents productivity, which is why you need to learn how to manage your stress levels in order to become more productive. Stress is self-imagined, self-imposed, and self-created; Which means you basically create your own stress and therefore you’re the one that’s preventing yourself from getting things done.

Stress is an unhealthy emotion that wastes too much of your energy. Instead, you should be focusing all that energy on the task at hand. Stress only becomes as powerful as you allow it to (at least that’s what Yoda told me). An emotion like stress can derail your day and control your actions, but it doesn’t have to; by stopping and addressing the issue once it starts, you’ll be a lot more likely to spend your day actually getting things done instead of just stressing over getting things done.

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1. Get Caught Up to Stress Less

It won’t be easy to concentrate on what needs to get done today if you’re stressed about things that didn’t get done yesterday. Instead of letting the unfinished tasks daunt your mind, be more productive with your time and focus on completing them rather than worrying about them. If you’re behind on your list of things to do, getting caught up will offer some relief and you’ll find yourself not stressing out so much. Stress isn’t going to get things done for you, no matter how much energy you put in to it.

2. Give Yourself More Time and Take Breaks

Unless it’s absolutely crucial for you to get something done by a certain time, don’t give yourself strict deadlines that’s not easily manageable; Doing so will cause you to stress out about getting the project done on time and you’ll be in constant worry as you repeatedly glance at the clock to see how much time you have left. While this may cause you to work faster to get things done, it’s not likely you’re actually putting in the quality work that’s needed if you’re simply speeding through the task because you’re fueled by a deadline you’re stressing over.

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If you are at work on a task under a strict deadline or you simply find yourself getting worked up over completing a task, you’ll find it beneficial if you just step away for about 5 or 10 minutes and take a breather. Use that five or ten minutes to calm yourself, rest, get some fresh air, etc, and you’ll have a clearer head when you return back to the task which will allow you to work more efficiently.

3. Don’t Do It All Yourself

If you are under a strict deadline or you find yourself feeling overwhelmed by completing the task, you should ask for help if you need it. Everyone needs help at some point and having an extra set of hands to help won’t feel as overwhelming as if you were doing it by yourself. With help, you’ll be twice as productive and you’ll worry less about meeting that deadline now that you have someone helping you. If you know that you can’t do the task yourself, you shouldn’t push yourself; Doing so is only going to cause more stress and diminish the quality of work you’re producing even further.

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4. Get Some Perspective on Your Task

Becoming more productive in your day to day life can be accomplished by realizing what’s important and what’s not important because you’re likely spending a lot of your time stressing over things that are not that important in the big picture. A lot of the things that people stress over are actually not as significant as they would like to think they are; Unless something is going to do you bodily harm, then it’s probably not worth mentally upsetting yourself over it. Keeping a positive attitude as you start the day, dive into your tasks, and tackle everything that needs to be done can deter you from getting sidetracked and wasting time on stressing over insignificant things. Method 5 will explain a way for you to figure out if what you’re stressing over has any actual significance at all or not.

5. Focus on Your Stress and Confront It

Sometimes focusing on your stress can be a good thing, if you’re trying to figure out how to better handle it that is. If trying to avoid stress isn’t as much of a successful method as you would like it to be, you could be productive through your stress and write down what it is that’s making you feel that way so you can confront it. In addition to writing down what stresses you out, also write down what’s the worst that can possibly happen. This will allow you to be able to look at back at what you wrote at a later time and see for yourself whether or not what you were stressing over was actually something significant. Usually, things end up not being as bad as they seem once you remove yourself from the situation and get a clearer head when looking at things.

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Stress can ruin your life, but it only will if you let it. By learning to maintain your stress, you can become more productive, be happier, and learn how to look at the bigger picture of things. While it’s natural to feel some extent of stress when it comes to some things in life; Stress shouldn’t dominate your day. When you notice that it has, that’s when you know you have a problem. When you feel yourself about to start stressing, stop and address it. Put things in perspective, let the insignificant things go, and start getting more done everyday.

Featured photo credit: Giuseppe Savo via flickr.com

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Last Updated on July 17, 2019

The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

What happens in our heads when we set goals?

Apparently a lot more than you’d think.

Goal setting isn’t quite so simple as deciding on the things you’d like to accomplish and working towards them.

According to the research of psychologists, neurologists, and other scientists, setting a goal invests ourselves into the target as if we’d already accomplished it. That is, by setting something as a goal, however small or large, however near or far in the future, a part of our brain believes that desired outcome is an essential part of who we are – setting up the conditions that drive us to work towards the goals to fulfill the brain’s self-image.

Apparently, the brain cannot distinguish between things we want and things we have. Neurologically, then, our brains treat the failure to achieve our goal the same way as it treats the loss of a valued possession. And up until the moment, the goal is achieved, we have failed to achieve it, setting up a constant tension that the brain seeks to resolve.

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Ideally, this tension is resolved by driving us towards accomplishment. In many cases, though, the brain simply responds to the loss, causing us to feel fear, anxiety, even anguish, depending on the value of the as-yet-unattained goal.

Love, Loss, Dopamine, and Our Dreams

The brains functions are carried out by a stew of chemicals called neurotransmitters. You’ve probably heard of serotonin, which plays a key role in our emotional life – most of the effective anti-depressant medications on the market are serotonin reuptake inhibitors, meaning they regulate serotonin levels in the brain leading to more stable moods.

Somewhat less well-known is another neurotransmitter, dopamine. Among other things, dopamine acts as a motivator, creating a sensation of pleasure when the brain is stimulated by achievement. Dopamine is also involved in maintaining attention – some forms of ADHD are linked to irregular responses to dopamine.[1]

So dopamine plays a key role in keeping us focused on our goals and motivating us to attain them, rewarding our attention and achievement by elevating our mood. That is, we feel good when we work towards our goals.

Dopamine is related to wanting – to desire. The attainment of the object of our desire releases dopamine into our brains and we feel good. Conversely, the frustration of our desires starves us of dopamine, causing anxiety and fear.

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One of the greatest desires is romantic love – the long-lasting, “till death do us part” kind. It’s no surprise, then, that romantic love is sustained, at least in part, through the constant flow of dopamine released in the presence – real or imagined – of our true love. Loss of romantic love cuts off that supply of dopamine, which is why it feels like you’re dying – your brain responds by triggering all sorts of anxiety-related responses.

Herein lies obsession, as we go to ever-increasing lengths in search of that dopamine reward. Stalking specialists warn against any kind of contact with a stalker, positive or negative, because any response at all triggers that reward mechanism. If you let the phone ring 50 times and finally pick up on the 51st ring to tell your stalker off, your stalker gets his or her reward, and learns that all s/he has to do is wait for the phone to ring 51 times.

Romantic love isn’t the only kind of desire that can create this kind of dopamine addiction, though – as Captain Ahab (from Moby Dick) knew well, any suitably important goal can become an obsession once the mind has established ownership.

The Neurology of Ownership

Ownership turns out to be about a lot more than just legal rights. When we own something, we invest a part of ourselves into it – it becomes an extension of ourselves.

In a famous experiment at Cornell University, researchers gave students school logo coffee mugs, and then offered to trade them chocolate bars for the mugs. Very few were willing to make the trade, no matter how much they professed to like chocolate. Big deal, right? Maybe they just really liked those mugs![2]

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But when they reversed the experiment, handing out chocolate and then offering to trade mugs for the candy, they found that now, few students were all that interested in the mugs. Apparently the key thing about the mugs or the chocolate wasn’t whether students valued whatever they had in their possession, but simply that they had it in their possession.

This phenomenon is called the “endowment effect”. In a nutshell, the endowment effect occurs when we take ownership of an object (or idea, or person); in becoming “ours” it becomes integrated with our sense of identity, making us reluctant to part with it (losing it is seen as a loss, which triggers that dopamine shut-off I discussed above).

Interestingly, researchers have found that the endowment effect doesn’t require actual ownership or even possession to come into play. In fact, it’s enough to have a reasonable expectation of future possession for us to start thinking of something as a part of us – as jilted lovers, gambling losers, and 7-year olds denied a toy at the store have all experienced.

The Upshot for Goal-Setters

So what does all this mean for would-be achievers?

On one hand, it’s a warning against setting unreasonable goals. The bigger the potential for positive growth a goal has, the more anxiety and stress your brain is going to create around it’s non-achievement.

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It also suggests that the common wisdom to limit your goals to a small number of reasonable, attainable objectives is good advice. The more goals you have, the more ends your brain thinks it “owns” and therefore the more grief and fear the absence of those ends is going to cause you.

On a more positive note, the fact that the brain rewards our attentiveness by releasing dopamine means that our brain is working with us to direct us to achievement. Paying attention to your goals feels good, encouraging us to spend more time doing it. This may be why outcome visualization — a favorite technique of self-help gurus involving imagining yourself having completed your objectives — has such a poor track record in clinical studies. It effectively tricks our brain into rewarding us for achieving our goals even though we haven’t done it yet!

But ultimately, our brain wants us to achieve our goals, so that it’s a sense of who we are that can be fulfilled. And that’s pretty good news!

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Featured photo credit: Alexa Williams via unsplash.com

Reference

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