“You can’t develop mental toughness without challenging yourself. I call it stressing yourself for success. There’s no question the human body is designed with that fight, flight, or freeze response, and you can interpret that to mean we’re not supposed to essentially stress ourselves out because we’re supposed to avoid stress or eliminate stress (which is impossible by the way) because it’s not good for our bodies.
“Well, that’s not true. Even in caveman days, it was the hunter who was able to control the stress response and turn it into a performance behavior that would allow him to get the most meat, face down the charging tiger, and organize a team to defeat him. That was called leadership. So, just because we have stress everyday in our life, doesn’t mean it has to be debilitating or lead to disease in our bodies.”
That’s a quote from our recent Social Capitalist guest Mark Divine, CEO of SEALFIT, NavySEALs.com and US CrossFit. He suggested the following strategies to channel your stress into high performance and actionable success:
- Breath control. Breathing has become an unconscious body function for most people. To get control of your breath, concentrate on it, slow it down, deepen it, use the full capacity of your lungs, and use your diaphragm. Anytime you feel that stress coming on, kick into this breath. In a calm environment, Mark recommends a four-count inhale, a four-count hold, and then a four- count exhale. If you’re in an environment where your heart is racing and you need more oxygen, just slow it down and do a four-count inhale, then a four-count exhale.
- Collapse your goal. When you’re in a stressful situation, collapse your goal into readily achievable short-term goals. It very quickly eliminates fear and anxiety surrounding the larger goal. This can provide directionality, momentum, and give you small victories toward your endgame, which has a very powerful effect on mental toughness and your stress response.
- Visualization. Use your creative mind to visualize yourself as successful, as powerful, as a leader, as healthy, as whatever it is you want. Visualization is also a useful tool to practice skills. Your body, physiologically, only makes a subtle distinction between practicing a skill in your mind versus using your body. Let’s say, in the martial arts context, a sword stroke, or for someone in the business setting, a communication dialogue. You practice and master those skills in your mind and it has a similar effect as if you were practicing it in the real world.
Your mission: The next time you feel stress, use one or all of these tools to turn your stress into performance-oriented action.
Are you already using any of these strategies to “catch the tiger”?