In today’s world where stress is so prevalent it is imperative to do as much as possible to take care of our well-being and not let the harmful effects of stress take over.  Research has shown that some stress is good for us: it helps us perform at optimal levels but too much stress, however, can have serious psychological and physiological repercussions. All we have to do is turn on the news and our stress levels spike several notches.  Now more than ever it is important to take proactive steps to take care of our well-being, both physically and mentally.  The goal is not to get rid of stress completely but rather to create balance in our life by having the tools in place to not allow stress to have detrimental effects on our health.  

While there are some stressors that can be avoided, some simply cannot. One thing that is for certain is that we always have a choice in how we respond to stress. Whatever the stress whether it’s the Covid pandemic, family stress or stress at work we always have a choice in how we respond. Our response then determines how we feel which ultimately affects our stress levels. 

In an effort to help us respond appropriately to life’s stressors it is helpful to examine how highly successful people manage their stress. These top performers know how to manage their emotions in times of stress so that they can remain cool, calm, and be able to do what needs to be done. They have tools in place to keep themselves in check when their stress increases.

The following are 5 stress management tools that we can learn from highly successful people:

1. Strive to find balance to help moderate your stress.  

Highly successful individuals make keeping their life in balance a priority so they take time out to enjoy life, have fun and schedule in leisure.  They engage in hobbies and activities that they enjoy such as: painting, swimming, riding a bike, a dance or yoga class.

2. Stop the negative self talk.  

Highly successful individuals have a positive mental attitude which helps them develop great resilience. They don’t get overwhelmed when the going gets tough because they are able to manage their emotions. With increased stress there’s a decrease in the volume of gray matter in the areas of the brain responsible for self control with which then further leads to a vicious cycle of stress where the individual feels lack of control over the situation that they’re in.  Catch yourself the next time you have a negative thought. Sometimes even just noticing that you’re stuck in a negative thought can help you move away from.  A simple way to do this is to ask yourself “is this thought serving me?” And then seek a better feeling thought to shift negative thinking to positive thinking. 

3. Take time out to focus on what you are grateful for.  

Successful individuals focus on gratitude regularly. Research conducted at the University of California-Davis, found that people who worked daily to cultivate an attitude of gratitude experienced improved mood, energy and substantially less anxiety due to lower cortisol levels.  Shifting your focus to what you are grateful for can also decrease anxiety by reducing the stress hormone cortisol by 23 percent.

4. Prioritize healthy habits by being regular with exercise, getting enough sleep and eating well.

Highly successful people make cultivating a healthy lifestyle a priority. These habits are vital to avoiding burnout and the myriad of chronic conditions that can result from excess stress in our lives. Some of the most highly successful people not only incorporate healthy habits in their daily routine but they also have a morning routine which levels up and sets the right tone for their day. 

5. Meditate or practice mindfulness in your daily routine.

Some of the most highly successful people are aware of the many benefits of meditation, from relaxation of the nervous system, decreased blood pressure, to better focus and overall better health. One quick way that you can start incorporating this practice is by doing the following: start by setting a timer for five minutes. Then sit comfortably and inhale deeply through your nose for a five count and exhale for another five count. Repeat this over and over until the timer beeps. Increase as you are able.

We can gain greater insight from how highly successful people handle stress. Stress management is really a skill that can be learned. In the end, what’s most important to remember is that you always have a choice in how you respond to the stressful events that happen in your life. As the author of Man’s Search for Meaning, Victor Frankel once said, “Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of human freedoms – to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way”. By learning the tools of stress management from highly successful individuals we can have an upper hand on the stress in our lives.