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How to Stay Productive When You’re Stressed

By Chatoya Duarte


I love this meme because it’s how I feel at least once a week. When I get stressed/overwhelmed/anxious, all I want to do is put on some comfy clothes, climb into bed and hide from the world.

Unfortunately, we all know that’s not ideal.

In fact, if I really did that, my world would spin out of control even more. The perfectionist in me couldn’t cope with uncompleted tasks and missed deadlines, creating even more to-dos that overflow my list and adding to the stress. So I put on my adult hat and do the things.

But there’s good news, my friends.

It is possible to channel stress into energy that helps you get things done and actually feel good about it. Here’s how.

The brain is a complex organ…

It releases a chemical called noradrenaline anytime we feel stressed.

Noradrenaline is an interesting chemical because it is both good and bad for us. In the brain, it increases not only alertness and vigilance, but also restlessness and anxiety. But Ian Robertson, a cognitive neuroscientist at Trinity College Dublin, says that, while too much stress can be debilitating, a moderate amount is extremely good for the mind. The brain doesn’t perform at its best with too little or too much noradrenaline. But “there’s a sweet spot in the middle where if you have just the right amount, the goldilocks zone of noradrenaline, that acts like the best brain-tuner.”

Scientifically speaking, we are designed to function well during stressful times. All we have to do is learn how to rewire our minds.

Fixed or growth mindset

One of the most important factors in training your brain is determining whether you have a fixed or growth mindset.

According to brainpickings.org, a “fixed mindset” assumes that your character, intelligence, and creative ability are static givens which you can’t change in any meaningful way; striving for success and avoiding failure at all costs become a way of maintaining the sense of being smart or skilled. A “growth mindset,” on the other hand, thrives on challenge and sees failure not as evidence of unintelligence but as a heartening springboard for growth and for stretching your existing abilities.

Out of these two mindsets, which we manifest from a very early age, springs a great deal of our behavior, our relationship with success and failure in both professional and personal contexts, and ultimately our capacity for happiness.

In Kelsey’s interview with Tony Robbins, Robbins said that “change is never a matter of ability, but of motivation.” The next time you feel stressed, whether it’s because of a mountain of to-dos, an important speaking gig or anything else, turn your negative thoughts into positive thoughts. Focus on the good things that will come from pushing through. Tell your brain that this is a situation for growth to take you to the next level. Find your brain’s sweet spot.

Let Go of Perfection

We live in an imperfect world, so is anything ever really perfect? No. But in our minds, we think it’s possible. And this is extremely detrimental to our health, success and drive. Natalie MacNeil said it best: “Get things to where you’re 80 percent happy and then tweak it along the way.”

Don’t let the fear of delivering “imperfect” content stop you from delivering anything at all! You can only get further by taking steps. If you do make a mistake, learn to embrace it and understand that mistakes are a natural part of life. It’s an opportunity to make it better next time. Also, stop comparing yourself to others. Robbins said one of our deepest fears is not being good enough. If you’re constantly comparing yourself to other people, you will never feel good enough! Trust yourself and respect your craft. Remember that the world needs you and your work. No one else has your point of view.

Top Three

With life pulling us hundreds of different directions, it always helps to take a moment and write down the top three things you need to do that day. Don’t worry about finishing your entire to-do list in one day. Many times, there are several tasks that can be rolled over to the next day. Tackling three items each day helps you feel productive and to focus on the most important tasks while blocking out items that aren’t time critical. Don’t even think about the other things until the next day when you reevaluate your list again.

You have power over your mind. Change your mindset and watch yourself stay productive when stressed.

Chatoya Duarte is a regular editor and contributor to Pursuit Magazine, as well as the Operations Manager at Pursuit Media.

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