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Picture this scenario:  you start the work day off feeling pretty good. On your first call, you find out that you must drop $750k from your budget by Friday. While you are messaging your co-workers about that, the 2nd call starts and your direct reports are telling you how bad it is to work with XYZ team and that’s why a key project is going to be 3 weeks late. The rest of the day is more of the same…triple booked with no breaks and people constantly reaching out via email, instant message, text, conference calls, etc. It’s the end of the day, you haven’t gotten a thing done, and now you are late picking up your kid for soccer. You are on the couch late in the evening, irritated, agitated, and exhausted; maybe a little sad because you realize that your family didn’t deserve your behavior tonight, but you feel stuck and don’t know how to change things. You are doing all the “right” things…why does it feel so bad?


Everyone has an upper limit for the stress level they are able to tolerate before their ability to perform is negatively impacted. Once you hit your upper limit, you are more likely to be reactive and transition into survival mode to get through the day. Since our brain’s primary job is to keep us safe and alive, this survival mode activates the body to fight or flee, and higher-level thinking and executive functioning are impaired. This makes sense if you are running from a bear, but if you are stuck behind a screen, sitting in a chair, talking to the Board of Directors, those built-up stress chemicals have nowhere to go. In addition, stress throughout the day is cumulative if not addressed, which can lead to that inevitable “out of the blue” outburst at your family or friends when you are finally free from your desk.


One of the key concepts we teach at Elite High Performance is the Power of State. State is the quality of the connection between your brain and body. We perform at our best when we are in a resourceful, high quality state, which can be very challenging in today’s corporate environment, especially when scenarios like the above are part of the company norms. As leaders, we need to start with our own self-awareness and state management:


1.)   Understand your triggers and core beliefs – Pay attention throughout the day and write down the scenarios that really trigger your stress response and other strong emotions. Boss yelling at you? 10 people reaching out to you at the same time? A passive aggressive co-worker? Getting clear on your patterns will help you identify what pulls you out of a high quality state, impacting your ability to think clearly and perform your best. 

2.)   Give yourself time to reset your state – Building in a 5 minute break between meetings or taking that 20 minute walk does NOT mean you are selfish or can’t handle a demanding workload. It gives you the necessary time to reset your state before the stress continues to accumulate and throws you out of a resourceful state into a reactive one. The result is a stronger performance for you AND your company. No one but you can protect these boundaries.

3.)   Address lifestyle habits that are negatively impacting your resiliency – Everyone has a bad night of sleep or chooses pizza and beer over the gym sometimes. But, in order to be in the most resourceful state and rebound more quickly from less positive states, both your brain AND body need to be in good working order. It doesn’t need to be a major change; small improvements, such as adding meditation or relaxing exercise, really add up over time. Atomic Habits by James Clear is a great resource.  


You don’t need to be stuck in the cycle of cumulative work or life stress. I’m passionate about this topic because I lived the above scenario for a good portion of my 25+ year corporate career and have personally experienced the ability of mindset work to combat it. It might be challenging initially, but I promise you that the internal freedom you get as a result is so worth it! Regardless of where you are, you CAN make changes to positively impact your life and your state. Please reach out to Elite if you’d like some support!  


Jennifer Patel | High Performance & Leadership Coach

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