Throughout my training and career I have learned first-hand the importance of keeping a clear mind when faced with challenging circumstances. Stress is a natural response to life’s obstacles. If not addressed, stress can have negative repercussions, but if handled correctly it can provide an opportunity for progress and growth. My experience working in high-energy/demanding environments such as the operating room have led me to develop a few methods for dealing and learning from stress.
Shift your perspective about stress
We all view the world in our own unique way, through the lenses of our past experiences and current mindset. When faced with high-stress circumstances, it may be useful to take a step back and reassess the situation with a different outlook. This helps us detach from unhelpful emotions or thoughts, revealing alternative approaches or solutions. Relying on a colleague or friend with a different perspective for advice can be very valuable.
A crisis situation may feel overwhelming at the time, but start with something as simple as taking a few deep breaths. Next, make a to-do list with the items in order of priority and tackle them one at a time. You don’t need to take one big step- rather, take lots of little steps to get to the finish line. This helps to simplify and deal with the larger task. Another method of shifting perspective is to consider the bigger picture and long-term goals. This provides a more complete assessment and may help guide your approach towards immediate, smaller details. Seeking external input or getting a second opinion is also a good way to gain a different viewpoint.
Learn from life’s challenges
There is a lesson to be learned from every experience, particularly those that are challenging. Take time to reflect on your situation and view obstacles/mistakes as a learning opportunity. Having a growth mindset is the key: train your brain to view opportunity rather than inconvenience, and you will see an improvement in mood, productivity, and ability to cope with high-pressure situations.
Gain experience for future challenges
The most important lesson in dealing with a stressful/crisis situation is how to anticipate and deal with future obstacles. Preparation is a great defence and will give you the confidence to face the situation head on. In life, we must take precautions to limit or avoid undesirable outcomes. These “stress-busting” measures can be as simple as a to-do list for household chores or as complex as an urgent restructuring plan for a business.
Consider problems or stressors in a different light, learn actionable lessons, and implement a forward-looking strategy. My advice is to take control of your stress, rather than letting it control you!