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Constructive Problem-Solving Techniques in Times of Stress

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"We had a plan in place to move forward with pricing. She was in the situation and just went with the idea that came to her mind. She needs to think instead of react.” My client's boss' comment about her performance. My sister in law told me about her day last week as a pre-school teacher: “I came home and snapped at the kids.”

How about you? Do you think, or do you react..some would say "over-react?"image

Usually when you react it is because you perceive that something is beyond your control, and will either lead to a bad outcome (i.e., my client might have thought if she doesn’t act now, someday she’ll have to sit in her boss’s office having to explain the missed opportunity) or reminds you of a bad outcome (my sister in law’s children made her feel as powerless as she did with her preschool students). Your reaction is an effort to say or do something that will prevent an uncomfortable feeling or situation but it usually will just create another situation you will regret.

Here’s what you want to do next time:

  1. Prevent yourself from getting to the point of reacting: Usually you have a build up of stress and whatever happens in the moment is the ‘straw that breaks the camel’s back’. Tune into your body, what are your particular early warning signs to know if stress is building up? When you are under stress, you are operating from the part of your brain where gut reactions come from, rather than the ‘thinking’ part of your brain. Your ‘mind follows your breath’ so you want to use breathing techniques to calm your nervous system and keep the thinking part of your brain in charge. An example of such a breathing technique can be found in one of my prior video blogs.
  2. Reel yourself back from reacting:If you find yourself tempted to react, get in the habit of immediately asking clarifying questions, or attempt to understand the situation before jumping to the worst case scenario. Once your reaction is set in motion, see if you can ask for a pause from the interaction. Or even just slow down the momentum of the interaction in order to get your thinking brain back on track. For example, you can talk out loud in an effort to clarify your position, e.g., “I’m getting upset about this because…” Or you can identify something specific in the situation that you can do or ask for from the other person – this will make sure that you are engaging your brain in constructive problem-solving and getting away from emotional reactivity. 

If you want techniques to help you prevent the build up of stress and overload, and techniques to use the thinking part of your brain instead of react, then listen to the recording of my teleconference call entitled Success under Stress for Women: How to Double your Effectiveness at Work and Energy at Home.

If you have ‘too much work and not enough time’, if difficult people at work or at home interfere with your performance, if you are noticing the signs of stress in your body…then learn how to get more results with less stress at work and feel more in control of your life. Here are just a few of the practical tools you will learn:

  • The one rule you need to follow that will immediately turn around your stress and make sure you can be calm, clear thinking and confident in any situation
  • What research says about women’s strengths under stress and what pitfalls you need to look out for
  • The sentence you can say to gain the cooperation of difficult people or people that don’t give you what you need to finish your projects
  • The secrets to being less reactive so you can respond with poise and act like a leader

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Sharon Melnick, Ph.D. is an executive coach and trainer who works with high potential and senior executives to rapidly remove any blocks to their leadership effectiveness. She combines ‘best practices’ executive coaching approaches with behavior change methods she developed over 10 years as a psychologist at Harvard Medical School.

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Sharon Melnick, Ph.D. is an executive coach and trainer who works with high potential and senior executives to rapidly remove any blocks to their leadership effectiveness. She combines ‘best practices’ executive coaching approaches with behavior change methods she developed over 10 years as a psychologist at Harvard Medical School. To get a free sample of her Friction Free Relationship program go now to http://sharonmelnick.com
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