For many years, humans have been fighting stress with exercise, diet and drugs. Still, we live in stressful times, and work exacerbates the pressure. But should we emulate Buddhist monks, clad in saffron robes, rice bowl in hand, counting their breaths? Daniel Kaufer, associate professor of integrative biology at UC Berkeley says, “Some amounts of stress are good to push you to the level of optimal alertness, behavioral and cognitive performance.”
Most cognitive scientists agree that small amounts of stress prompt stem cells to create new nerve cells, improving memory and performance. The other critical factor is how one perceives stress. If we welcome and manage it, stress becomes fuel. Fear it, and stress is overwhelming, impairing memory and creating depression, weight gain and other unwelcome results.
With the New Year approaching, challenge yourself to accept stress. When it comes to speaking, introduce a colleague at a networking meeting, sit on panel, give a toast at a wedding, or speak briefly at your firm’s lunch-and-learn. These small, low-ante events create good stress, preparing you for larger presentations, and building successes for the brain to recall. When your perspective about speaking goes from threat to challenge, you will be in your sweet spot. Ommm.