Success as an Introvert

Success as an Introvert

Joan Pastor, Ph.D., Published in The Los Angeles Psychologist, July-August 2014

Understanding the introvert and the extrovert is essential for distinguishing those personality traits which are damaging or conducive to the introvert’s success in life. That understanding is key to working with patients who exhibit high introversion to the detriment of their happiness and general well-being.

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Introvert vs. Extrovert

People often assume introverts are quiet, do not like people much, are in their heads a lot, and shun group activities. Many assume extroverts are the exact opposite. In truth, the differences between introverts and extroverts have little to do with these misconceptions. Instead, it has much to do with what I call “the allocation of energy.” Individuals who are introverted tend to feel energized by their thoughts, their ideas, and internal analyses. Introverts feel more energetic and passionate about their work when the energy comes from within.

Extroverted individuals truly need and like people (Fishman, Ng, & Bellugi, 2010). Extroverts gain energy when they can interact with others; they literally take energy from their interactions. Regardless of orientation, the ultimate result of one’s social proclivity in life, introvert or extrovert, is that one feels more energized, bigger than oneself, better about oneself.

One should not blindly label an introvert as shy, socially phobic, anxiety-prone around other people, a strictly thinker- type, or overly analytical. Although some introverts do have these traits, each person is unique and must be worked with in a different way.

Is It Nature or Nurture?

Does Mother Nature decide whether you are introverted or extroverted before you are born? The answer is not clear. Genes definitely influence whether you are an introvert or an extrovert, but there is no single “introvert gene.”

One way scientists investigate this question is by studying twins. Identical twins share all their genes, while fraternal twins share only half. So far, twin studies show the effect of genes is pretty significant (Bouchard, Jr, & Hur, 1998). But it is equally clear that, as stated above, no single gene makes you an introvert. Instead, being introverted or extroverted (or both—being “ambiverted”) is the result of various combinations of genes. Research indicates introverts are extremely vulnerable to sensory overload. It has been postulated that this causes withdrawal from external stimuli, including people interaction, as a means of self-protection (Schaefer, Heinze , & Rotte, 2012; Wired Up, 2005).

Although a lot of evidence shows that introverts are wired differently from “party” animals (i.e., introverts have more activity in brain regions we use for problem-solving, making plans, and recalling events; Soglin, 1999), how individuals express their personality also may depend on where they live and how they were raised.

Coaching the Introverted Child

As a parent of an introverted child, one mistake to avoid is encouraging the child stay with their friend(s), while not addressing the anxiety he or she may feel in a large group. While we live in a social world and much of our livelihood and independence requires interacting with others, a parent could mistakenly push an introverted child into being “more social” or extroverted. This is not necessarily wrong, but it has to be done very, very carefully.

Highly introverted children need a great deal of coaching in terms of social skills, and the expectations should be set so that children feel comfortable and self-confident when they are with other people. When they do interact with others, they understand and believe that “I just happen to gain more energy from my inward thoughts, but I’m still able to interact with people in the world.”

Introverts as Leaders

Introverted people are capable of being public personas (e.g., Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, J.K. Rowling). They learn to use specific skills for being “on” when they are interacting with other people. Nevertheless, key differences between introverts and extroverts are easily detected in social situations. Introverts will tire more quickly in groups of all sizes. They need much more alone time to go inward, to restore their energy, and to replenish themselves. An extroverted person can interact for much longer in social situations and with much greater enjoyment because they gain energy from people.

Some of the best leaders in the work place are often introverted. Their strength is the ability to look at situations and to think about them deeply, plan or think things through before they respond impulsively, and cultivate the strengths of both extroverted and introverted employees.

Another advantage introverts have in today’s workplace is that business is Internet/technology-based, requiring the ability to work in front of the computer for long periods. Social media is often a source of great comfort for the introvert. In the past, business was done mostly on site, in meetings, e.g., sales people generally sold in face-to-face meetings. As a consequence of advancing technology, today’s introverts can become quite successful in their own businesses.

Helping the Introvert/Extrovert

Helping introverts or extroverts involves both leading them to understand the source of their energy and examining their strengths and assisting in creating a more balanced lifestyle. Introverts need to be more socially engaged, and extroverts need to learn to withdraw and reflect.

This approach helps introverts and extroverts take advantage of their strengths and develop themselves to operate optimally in the world, while simultaneously maximizing their personal happiness and satisfaction in life.

 

Joan Pastor, Ph.D., is licensed in both clinical and industrial-organizational (business) psychology. For more information, please contact her through The Healthy Brain and Body Centre of Beverly Hills or JPA International, Inc. She can be reached at Joan@JPA-International.com or US 1-760-945-9767. Her latest book is Success as An Introvert for Dummies.

References available on request from the LACPA office, lacpsych@aol.com.

 

 

References

Bouchard TJ Jr, Hur YM. Journal of Personality. Genetic and environmental influences on the continuous scales of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator: an analysis based on twins reared apart.
1998 Apr, 66(2): 135-49.

Fishman, Inna, Ng Rowena, Bellugi, Ursula. Cognitive Neuroscience. Do extraverts process social stimuli differently from introverts? 2010 Nov, iFirst, 1-7. Epub: www.psypress.com/cognitiveneuroscience DOI: 10.1080/17588928.2010.527434.

Schaefer M, Heinze HJ, Rotte M. Neuroimage. Touch and personality: extraversion predicts somatosensory brain response. 2012 Aug, 62(1), 432-8.

Soglin Becky. University of Iowa News Services. Brain activity differs in introverts and extroverts, UI study shows. 1999, Mar. epub: http://news-releases.uiowa.edu/1999/march/0329intro-extro.html.

Wired-up. Lemon juice experiment. 2005, Mar 18. Issue: 22. Note that this is an online demonstration of research published in peer reviewed journals.

Six Steps for Successful Change

Six Steps for Management Change

Making change happen is a challenge for any business executive. Try these key steps to manage change correctly.

1. Make a critical judgment. Decide.

Get the facts. Through observation and fact finding, gather as much hard information as possible. Then trust your gut. Make judgments and decisions on what is not self-evident.

2. Motivate all involved.

Communicate. Sell. Each person must see how this change will benefit him or her personally. Create ownership. Incorporate suggestions and give credit for each person’s contribution.

3. Consider possible problems. Plan alternatives.

Plan B is crucial in your planning. Have alternatives for each major step so that breakdowns in supplies or personnel won’t derail the change.

4. Act.

You must plan for and initiate each step for the change to occur.

5. Follow up as employees adapt.

Teach each employee how to interact with and relate to the change. Ample time must be allowed for this step. Some people don’t adapt quickly. Make plans for alternative approaches if appropriate behavior is not produced within a given time.

6. Handle consequences.

You may have to fire employees or replace lost clients who cannot handle the change. In short, you have to do whatever is necessary to make the change—if it’s truly needed—a viable undertaking for the corporation.

Fear of Public Speaking Solution

THE USE OF MULTIPLE BEHAVIOR TECHNIQUES AS A TREATMENT FOR THE FEAR OF PUBLIC SPEAKING

In order to aid a physical therapist who has to give public speeches (which she fears greatly), a combination of systematic desensitization, positive instruction, and behavior rehearsal with feedback were successfully used to ease her anxiety and teach her practical skills. The combination increased her expectation that she could be helped and it is theorized that it may also be responsible for subjective as well as objective signs of a reduction in anxiety.

A widespread and debilitating fear for many people is the fear of public speaking. Fortunately, a variety of behavioral treatments have been found to help those with this fear. Therapists have used systematic desensitization (Paul, 1966; M. E. Jaremko and W. W. Wenrich, 1973; Zenmore, 1975), assertive training (Sanders, 1967; Humphreys and Berman. 1975), and in vivo desensitization (Gurman, 1973) with successful results.

Therefore, when Ms. S. sought help for this problem, there were a variety of sources to turn to for help. As systematic desensitization is a highly successful therapy having substantial empirical support, the facilitator chose this technique to be the main thrust of the treatment. It was also decided to include a combination of positive instruction with behavior rehearsal.

This decision came from several studies showing that proper rehearsal and preparation of the speech as well as objective feedback from others also reduced public speaking anxiety as well as increasing the subject’s personal confidence (Baker, Sandman, and Pepinsky, 1975), and that to combine these factors with systematic desensitization may be more effective than using any of them alone (Vrolijk, 1975; Sherman, Mulac, and McCann, 1974).

The facilitator also used this combination because, as the client’s history will show, new skills had to be learned if the client’s fear of ruining her speech were to remain unrealistic in the future. It was important for Ms. S. to be given assurance that she could be successfully helped before beginning treatment. She had never had difficulty speaking before a group of people until the eighth grade. She even remembers volunteering to give reports in elementary school.

The difficulty began when the teacher of her eighth grade English class was her father. Ms. S. was not getting along with her parents at this time and found it difficult to accept anything they said. Here, however, was a situation where she had to obey her father. For the first time, she felt very uncomfortable when she had to give class reports. She became upset that she was having this problem and this served to make her more anxious. She still had no problems answering questions or participating in class discussions, but after that year it continued to really bother her when she knew in advance that she had to give a speech in class, and would be extremely nervous before and during her presentation

The client is now a physical therapist in charge of the pediatrics unit at a large local hospital. She has a position of some responsibility which calls for her to make occasional public speeches. Once a week, all the physical therapists in the hospital (about 12 people) get together and give small, informal presentations called chart rounds. The history, treatment, and progress of the patients presently being treated are given and discussed.

The staff does not usually question each others reports. Because Ms. S. feels she is not the only one who has to speak, she does not feel nervous in this situation. The informal atmosphere relaxes her. However, she is also expected to give a formal 45-minute presentation called an “inservice speech” to all staff in her division at least once a year. The inservice speech is given in a small lecture room to about 25 people on a topic of her own choosing related to her field. The last inservice speech she gave was in November, 1976, and she was scheduled again to give another speech the first of December, 1977.

The client told the facilitator that she enjoyed the research and preparation of her presentation last year and would give more speeches if she weren’t so anxious about giving them. Ms. S. usually wrote the speech the night before she was to present it and then put it away without looking any further at it until right before she was to present. She does not write the speech out first but uses an outline on notecards. The night before her speech she is aware of feeling a little tense; in college she would get headaches.

The speech is scheduled for the last hour of that working day at 4:00. During the day, Ms. S. tries to put the speech out of her mind as much as possible. By 1:00 – 2:00 p.m. this is no longer possible and she can feel tension in her jaw, neck, and shoulders. She finds herself thinking that others will be able to see her hands shaking while speaking and see how nervous she is. She finds herself extremely talkative with her last patient at 3:00 p.m. Members of the audience begin to gather around 4:00 p.m. and there is casual conversation until the speech begins at 4:10 p.m. At this point, the client is extremely nervous and then goes over her speech for the first time.

She is very aware of how nervous she is and finds it hard to converse casually with others in the room. When she begins her speech, she is “super-aware of everything, but I feel not in control of anything.” This is a very big change in her, she feels, because she perceives herself as normally much more of a daydreamer and not as attuned to her environment.

Ms. S. also experiences an unpleasant “hot rush” when she first begins speaking. It does not cause her to feel faint but her heart rate greatly increases. She sometimes forgets what she will say next while speaking but there are no unusual pauses. She speaks quickly and makes what she estimates as “fair” eye contact. Her body remains tense and stiff throughout the speech.

Much of the tension leaves as soon as the speech is over, but it still takes her one or two hours to clam down completely. The client had already taken other steps to overcome her anxiety by the time of her first session with the facilitator. She had enrolled in a night school course on public speaking which met once a week and had already given a three minute introductory speech to the class.

She had felt very tense and her hands were shaking. The teacher had suggested improvements concerning her posture, eye contact, and hand gestures. She was to give two more speeches in this course before the date of her inservice speech.

Other than public speaking, there are no other behaviors that are giving the client unreasonable difficulty. She is comfortable in familiar social situation and is not afraid to assert herself when annoyed or angry.

Her career and social life seem to be equally balanced and she feels basically content with herself. She is also not called upon to given any formal speeches outside of those inservice speeches, though it is possible this could change in the future. Therefore, the ability to present herself effectively at her inservice speeches was the focus of treatment and new skills were taught which would carry over to any public speaking in the future.

TREATMENT

Two 40 minute sessions were arranged per week to devote exclusively to systematic desensitization to continue on as long as necessary. The initial session, however, lasted two hours. The client’s history was obtained and systematic desensitization, relaxation, and the SUDS scale (Wolpe and Lazarus, 1966) were thoroughly explained.

The client was also shown procedures people generally follow when preparing for a speech (Gondin and Mammen, 1963). Ms. S. was unaware of what preparation went into a good speech; i.e., writing the speech far enough in advance so that it could be rehearsed and modified if necessary. The client was able to see that proper preparation and practice would reduce her rush at the last minute and also give more confidence. The client reported she put off preparing in advance because she wanted to avoid thinking of the speech as much as possible.

Thus, even preparing made her very anxious. The facilitator decided to do two hierarchies for systematic desensitization; the first to surround preparation and the second to surround the days leading up to the speech and the speech itself. The first hierarchy was drawn up (Table One). Meanwhile, since Ms. S. had to give a ten minute speech for her night class in a few days, positive instruction were given.

The speech was to be written out and put on notecards no later than two days before the class. It was then to be practiced alone two times, once in front of a mirror and once without the mirror.

(TABLE ONE)

1. First assigned speech. Due date December 1, 1977.

2. One week before speech is to be given, thinking must begin before writing speech on Saturday, November 26.

3. Day before speech writing is to begin. At work, thinking about it.

4. Day before speech writing is to begin. Morning at breakfast, thinking about it.

5. Night before speech writing is to begin. Painting room and thinking about it.

6. Saturday morning. Gathering writing materials and making tea.

7. Saturday morning. Sitting down at kitchen table and beginning preparation.

8. Working on speech, stops, reading what has been written over again.

9. Halfway through speech, stops.

10. Beginning speech writing.

11. Sunday morning. Finishing speech writing.

12. Saturday afternoon. Thinking that she will have to finish speech tomorrow.

13. Monday at work. Thinking that in 3 days she will have to give speech.

14. Monday evening. First, practice with mirror.

15. Tuesday evening. Second, practice alone, without mirror.

16. Tuesday at work. Thinking that in 2 days she will have to give speech.

17. Wednesday evening. Rehearsing speech in front of facilitator.

18. Wednesday at work. Thinking that tomorrow will give speech.

THE USE OF MULTIPLE BEHAVIOR TECHNIQUES AS A TREATMENT FOR THE FEAR OF PUBLIC SPEAKING

Several hours before the night class met, the client and the facilitator met and the client gave the speech once before the facilitator. The therapist gave positive and constructive feedback on her rehearsal. Later the client reported she felt much more relaxed than before but had still experienced some panic.

At the next session, the first official session using systematic desensitization, the facilitator gave Ms. S. training in cue-controlled relaxation. The client had already had a little training in self-relaxation in the past and had described herself as being able to relax deeply fairly easily on her own. She was already familiar with Wolpe and Lazarus’ method (1966) and stated that she would feel more comfortable with a less meticulous technique.

Cue-controlled or conditioned relaxation was attained in two steps following the procedure suggested by Russell and Sipich (1973) in their case study involving test and speech anxiety. Ms. S. was given a review of deep muscle relaxation with training on particularly troublesome spots (lower back, shoulders, neck, jaw). Then the relaxed state was associated with deep breathing and a self-produced cue word “relax.” The first hierarchy was then begun and took four sessions to complete.

During these sessions such avoidance behaviors as changing the presented scene for a more pleasant one, sudden rushes (while feeling her muscles remain completely relaxed), and falling asleep were systematically discovered and discouraged. At the beginning of the fifth session, the second hierarchy was drawn up (Table Two) and completed in three sessions. The last session ended one week before the inservice speech was to be given. The client and facilitator made a schedule similar to the previously mentioned one of positive instruction and behavior rehearsal and it was carried out in the same manner as had been done for the ten minute speech given earlier.

(Table Two)

SPATIAL-TEMPORAL HIERARCHY ON SPEAKING IN PUBLIC

1. Thursday morning at breakfast. Thinking today will give inservice speech.

2. Thursday morning car, driving to work. Thinking today will give inservice speech.

3. Thursday at lunch. Thinking that in 4 hours will begin giving speech.

4. Thursday at 1:00 p.m. With patient and thinks that in 3 hours will give speech.

5. Thursday at 1:30 p.m. With patient and thinks that in 2-1/2 hours will give speech.

6. Thursday at 2:00 p.m. In-between patients and thinks that in 2 hours will begin speech.

7. Thursday at 2:30 p.m. With patient, sees clock and realizes that in 1-1/2 hours will begin speech.

8. Thursday at 2:45 p.m. Realizes that in about an hour will begin speech.

9. Thursday at 2:50 p.m. Same as above.

10. Thursday at 3:00 p.m. In between patients, realizes one hour to go.

11. Thursday at 3:10 p.m. Working with patient, sees clock.

12. Thursday at 3:20 p.m. Same as above.

13. Thursday at 3:30 p.m. 30 minutes to go.

14. Thursday at 3:40 p.m. 20 minutes to go.

15. Thursday at 3:45 p.m. 15 minutes to go.

16. Thursday at 3:50 p.m. 10 minutes to go.

17. Thursday at 3:55 p.m. Last patient of the day is leaving.

18. Gathering materials needed for speech, locking office door, preparing to leave for lecture room.

19. At doorway of lecture room, still outside in hallway.

20. At doorway, looking into room and seeing people there.

21. Preparing to begin speech at front of room, facing audience.

22. Talking to people before beginning speech.

23. Beginning speech, taking some deep breaths.

24. In middle of speech, talking to audience

25. In middle of speech, talking and showing slides to audience.

26. End of speech, answering questions from audience.

THE USE OF MULTIPLE BEHAVIOR TECHNIQUES AS A TREATMENT FOR THE FEAR OF PUBLIC SPEAKING

RESULTS

Ms. S. reported that she experienced no anxiety while preparing the speech. She also felt no discomfort practicing it alone or in front of the facilitator. The night before the inservice speech was to be given, she felt no tension and during the next day, when she thought about the speech, she did not try to block it out of her mind. She reported that she did think about the speech more than she had in the past but she felt much less afraid because she was well-prepared.

Before the speech she was able to chat with people in the audience and felt only a slight tension in her jaws. Once she began the speech, she relaxed completely and felt very aware of herself and also in control of herself. She felt that treatment had been successful.

DISCUSSION

Although this study is an uncontrolled application of multiple techniques to a specific behavioral problem, thus making it hard to functionally analyze the contributions of individual treatment components, the case does point to the possibility that effective combinations of behavioral techniques could be more helpful to the client. A flexible and knowledgeable attitude towards a variety of proven therapeutic methods available could offer increased chances of meeting the specific needs of the individual seeking treatment.

Ms. S.’s subjective report at the end of treatment about her feelings and behavior suggested that systematic desensitization, positive instruction, and behavior rehearsal were equally effective in reducing her fear of public speaking. All worked on different components of her fear to give an increased sense of mastery over her anxiety. However, because she had already had relaxation training in the past and it hadn’t helped the behavior before (it was not applied in connection to the behavior), she was at first very skeptical as to whether systematic desensitization could work.

Because it has been shown that the success of a treatment is significantly influenced by the client’s expectations (Bootzin, 1971: Woy and Efran, 1972; Meyer, 1975) the facilitator made sure that the client knew that this method had been very successful in the past, and she also gave positive feedback concerning Ms. S.’s own progress with systematic desensitization.

By the middle of treatment, Ms. S. saw how she was able to imagine scenes calmly, which previously had disturbed her greatly and this became self-reinforcing. After her inservice speech she stated how she felt each helped; positive instruction gave her increased knowledge and skills, behavior rehearsal, and positive feedback increased her self-confidence, and systematic desensitization made her calm enough to put what she learned and felt to use.

How dependent the success of this particular treatment plan was with this client’s expectation that she would get better is difficult to determine. It appears that such mutual dependence was present. How much any one technique was dependent on such is also hard to determine, but it should be pointed out that “in the studies where expectancy effects were reported, significant effects of systematic desensitization in the absence of positive instructions were also the rule” (Rimm and Masters, 1974, p. 73). Keeping this in mind, it was true that Ms. S. first began to feel a lot more hopeful about the treatment after her ten minute speech which was given before systematic desensitization even began. But it was not until she was well into treatment that she began to see her own progress. One possible explanation is that systematic desensitization is a more unusual type of treatment than the others used in this study and that people are prone to be suspicious of that which is unfamiliar to them.

Here, some relationship between expectancy and amount of progress in systematic desensitization appeared and it deserves further research. There have been experimenters who have been curious to determine whether the reported anxiety reduction is truly the experience of the person with the fear. Sanders (1967) showed two forms of behavior rehearsal and systematic desensitization to be equally effective in reducing objectively rated anxiety and all equally, effective in reducing subjectively rated anxiety. In this study, behavior rehearsal was confined to role playing around a hierarchy. No mention is made of controlling for positive instruction or positive feedback.

Though Ms. S. was not given pretest and post-test on an anxiety measure, she reported a subjective drop in anxiety and members of her night course in public speaking reported a more confident appearance to the audience. Though it cannot be ascertained here, it is possible that the two additional variables that Sanders did not report using may contribute to a subjective reduction in anxiety. Again, further research looking at the treatment factors in this study both in controlled combination and in isolation is necessary, not only to benefit those with a fear of public speaking, but for those with other anxieties as well.

 

By Joan Pastor

References
Baker, W. M., Sandman, C. A., and Pepinsky, H.B. Affectivity of task, rehearsal time, and physiological response. Journal of Abnormal Psychology. 1975, 84, 539-544.
Bootzin, R R. Magnitude and duration of expectancy effects in behavior modification. Paper presented to the 1971 convention of the APA.
Gondin, A., and Mammen, H.C. The Art ofSpeaking. New York, Doubleday & Co., Inc., 1961.
Gurman, Ala S. Treatment of a case of public-speaking anxiety by in vivo desensitization and cue-controlled relaxation. Journal of Behavior Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry, 1973, 4, 51- 54.
Humphreys, Lewis, and Berman, Irving. The application of multiple behavioral techniques to multiple problems of a complex case. Journal of Behavior Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry, 1975,6,311-315.
Jeremko, M.E., and Wenrich, W. W. A prophylactic usage of systematic desensitization. Journal of BehaviorTherapy and Experimental Psychiatry, 1973, 4, 103-105.
Meyer, V. The impact of research on the clinical application of behavior therapy. Rivista di Psichiatria, 1972, 7, 256-276. (Journal Abstract).
Paul, G. L. Insight vs. Desenstization in Psychotheraphy: An Experiment in Anxiety Reduction. Stanford, California: Stanford University Press, 1966.
Rimm, David C., and Masters, John C. Behavior Therapy: Techniques and Empirical Findings, New York: Academic Press, 1974.
Russell, Richard K., and Sipich, James F. Cue-controlled relaxation in the treatment of test anxiety. Journal of BehaviorTherapy and Experimental Psychiatry, 1973, 4, 47-49.
Sanders, B. D. Behavior rehearsal and imaginable desensitization in reducing public speaking anxiety. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, Stanford University, 1967. Abstract taken from Rimm, D. C. and Masters, J. C. Behavior Therapy: Techniques and Empirical Findings. New York: Academic Press, 1974, p. 116.
Sherman, A. Robert, Mulac, Anthony, and McCann, Michael J. Synergestic effect of self-relaxation and rehearsal feedback in the treatment of subjective and behavioral dimensions of speech anxiety. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 1974, 42, 8 19-827.
Vrolijk, A. A comparison of several strategies for the reduction of systematic desensitization anxiety. Nederland’sTydschrift voor de Psychologie en haar Grensgebieden, 1975, 30, 149-169. Journal Abstract.
Wolpe, J., and Lazarus, A. A. Behavior Therapy Techniques: A Guide to the Treatment of Neuroses. Oxford: Pergamon Press, 1966.
Woy, J. Richard, and Efran, Jay S. Systematic desensitization and expectancy in the treatment of anxiety. Behavior Research and Therapy, 1972, 10, 43-49.
Zenmore, Robert. Systematic desenstization as a method of teaching a general anxiety-reducing skill. Journal ofConsulting and Clinical Psychology, 1975, 43, 157-161.

Signs of Stress at Work

If there is one quality human beings share, it is that we all experience stress. Life can be difficult and even when we CHOOSE to do something difficult, we still experience stress.

I believe each one of us has what I call a “stress threshold,” a point when what is bothering us, or what may have been bothering us for a long time, begins to break down our natural defenses for coping. That is when we experience negative symptoms of stress.

Already know how stress exhibits itself in your life? See our Stress Management Techniques listed below instead!

If you recognize any of the below-listed symptoms in yourself, be grateful your body and mind are communicating to you. You have important information to use in the choices you make today.

1. Stress headache is a common sign you have exceeded your limits.

2. Caregiver stress. This is a biggie, much more than people think. You may be taking care of not only young ones or elderly parents, but two incomes may now down to one. And the person working often becomes the caregiver to the one who is not, and the wheel of stress goes ’round and ’round.

3. Anxiety or depression stress. People don’t realize this but anxiety can actually be a part of depression or occur alongside it. If you are feeling both highly anxious and depressed at the same time (or have signs of depression even if you don’t feel it), please seek assistance. This can be managed well, but you want the help of capable hands.

4. Stress-related insomnia. Avoid sleeping pills, which only treat symptoms and can have dangerous side effects. Cognitive behavior therapy can pinpoint the causes and get you snoring in no time. Even the Mayo Clinic agrees!

5. Stress and high cholesterol, as well as cortisol stress. Of course, these are of great concern since they are silent. Only a blood test and/or stress test will find it.

6. Stress and chest pain. Learn more on stress management techniques and stress and chest pain from my clinical subsidiary.

7. Stress-caused acne. Teen stress is not the only cause, it happens when you are an adult too. Relax!

8. Escapism stress. Watching TV or surfing the ‘Net for hours every day, eating more than usual, drinking more than usual, gambling, etc.

Of course, there are many, many other symptoms of stress as well. Where they show up (Digestive tract? Joints? Back?) is often a combination of genetics (what parts of you are less resilient than others, thus will show wear and tear sooner) and traits unique to you.

Stressed about stress yet? Don’t worry, there’s a way out!


Three Proven Stress Management Techniques

Meditate
Meditation doesn’t have to be hours of “ohms,” it can comprise of any repetitive action, really. This includes walking, swimming, painting, knitting, or any activity that will help keep your attention present and calm. Shoot for just 5 or 10 minutes a day and you’ll see a big difference.

Picture Yourself Relaxed
If you have a talkative mind, learn to quiet it! Create a peaceful visualization like a favorite vacation spot or the feel of your favorite sweater.

This technique will take your mind off the stress and replace it with an image that triggers “calm.”

Breathe Deeply
Stress automatically evokes tense, shallow breathing, so be sure to keep it in check before low oxygen levels start making things even more difficult.

Sports Psychology in the Board Room

SPORTS PSYCHOLOGY IN THE WORKPLACE: FROM THE LOCKER ROOM TO THE BOARDROOM

The corporate world, success-oriented and competitive as it currently is, is becoming increasingly aware that peak performance at all levels requires the conscious acquisition of knowledge and training specific to each job. Our approach to work is more deliberate now than ever before, and it parallels in many ways the efforts of athletes as they strive for achievement. It is not surprising that many sports figures have turned to careers in business upon retirement, running their own companies or joining corporate teams at management levels. They bring to their new roles unique experience in goal setting and goal achievement.

The sports world has contributed the effective tool of visualization to the business world. Management researchers have discovered that the visualization process, when consciously developed and used by athletes, leads to measurable performance improvement.

Imagery and Perception

Researchers exploring the relationship between imagery and perception have discovered they occur simultaneously in the brain. Imagery can be substituted for actual practice while performing an activity.

“The disciplined use of the imagination as pioneered by the Soviets can carry us into territories of performance and ability far beyond what most of us generally imagine,” says James Hickman regarding interviews he conducted with Soviet and East German sports psychologists. In business, the visualization process can be broken down into three comprehensive categories. Employees can focus on:

  • The specific activity they hope to succeed at (such as strengthening their backhand stroke, asking for a raise, interviewing for a new job, speaking before a group, presenting a sales pitch, or negotiating a contract).
  • The environment in which the activity will take place (such as a crowded stadium, unfamiliar gymnastic equipment, size of an audience, or distractions in the home of a salesman’s client).
  • The goal (such as winning next week’s game, winning an Olympic gold medal, or signing a contract).

Visualization and Pivotal Points

Many athletes begin the mental rehearsal text by identifying what they consider to be the activity’s pivotal point—the crucial moment or movement that determines their success. “In a dive, we tend to look at the whole thing instead of the key part that will make it flow,” says diver Michelle Mitchell, winner of the 1984 Olympic silver medal. “Find the one point in the dive that you have to execute correctly, and focus on that. There is a 1.5-second shift that must be executed precisely just as you leave the board, or there will be dire consequences.”

Mitchell isolated that split second as the point “when your feet are pushing off and your arms are throwing.” She attributes her winning performance to the visual practice of her particular pivotal moment and its effect on her physical abilities.

Business situations often involve pivotal points as well. Contract negotiations require a strategy based on awareness of a key demand and a key concession, elements upon which negotiations either break down or proceed to the mutual satisfaction of all parties.

Similarly, conflict resolution between staff and supervisors depends upon a six-step process, the most important of which is to see the problem from the other person’s point of view. Visualization techniques can be used to isolate and overcome those obstacles on a case-by-case basis when the participants are willing to examine situations in detail, paying strict attention to everyone’s vivid descriptions.

Goal Images

Recognition of and commitment to the goal is just as important in visualization as awareness of details and pivotal points. On a simple level, the archer who visualizes hitting the bull’s eye with his arrow mentally reinforces his belief in his ability to achieve the goal. In the same fashion, a salesman who wants to get an appointment with a prospective client may envision himself writing the appointment on his calendar before he makes the call.

Stunt skier Scott Schmidt describes how he prepares to ski a challenging slope he’s never seen, let alone skied before: “I can just do it. I can just feel it and see it in my mind’s eye. I see myself doing it; I know that I’m doing it, and that I’m successful.”

Schmidt draws upon past skiing experiences, remembering vivid details that involve all of his senses, to visualize future success. He deliberately reinforces the feeling of success to improve a performance he cannot literally, physically practice. It is far more common, however, to find individuals mentally rehearsing both the pivotal point and the goal image.

When people learn new activities, they receive basic instruction, isolating pivotal points and defining goals. Whether learning to bowl, type, or give a speech, they move back and forth, holding momentarily the pivotal point image and then the goal image in the mind’s eye.

For example, a customer service representative visualizes going through the motions that project a positive effect to an irate customer. He sees himself smiling, calmly asking pertinent questions, repeating the customer’s responses and feedback in an understanding manner, and validating the customer’s feelings and needs. He balances the particulars with an image of the goal: solving the problem for a smiling, satisfied customer.

Cognitive Restructuring

Some visualization techniques focus on self-image and self-esteem in addition to specific activities and goals. It is important to align the individual’s belief system to the achievement of the goal. Positive messages must replace negative messages; the athlete and the businessperson must expect success rather than failure. The words people use during conversations with themselves determine thoughts, feelings, and images they have of themselves and, ultimately, their behavior.

“I don’t deserve the promotion,” or “I don’t have what it takes to be a manager,” or “I can’t have a career and a family,” are all negative statements that hold us back. Natasha Josefowitz, professor of management at San Diego State University, asks her students to visualize themselves five years in the future, write their scenarios and submit them to her.

Consistently, women preface their answers with the words, “I hope to …” whereas men write the words, “I plan to …” Both sexes may be equally ambitious, but their belief in themselves clearly is not equal.

Thought-stopping is one of the devices used to change negative thoughts to positive thoughts. Sports psychologist Don Greene worked with diver Michelle Mitchell, training her to stop visualizing the worst scenarios. He told her to yell: “Stop the film!”, mentally rewind to its beginning, replay it slowly, and recreate the key point until it is recorded successfully.

Anchoring is another tool used by athletes to transform their expectations. Once the negative image has been identified, the person looks for a particular sound or sight or touch with which he can associate a positive image to replace it. The replacement image must feel real, its true appearance guided through the imagination of vivid detail.

Each time he encounters the negative imagine, he conjures up the detail, or anchor, that reminds him to replace it with the positive. A dramatic example was told by Rosyland Fairbanks, ranked 25th in the world in women’s tennis and ranked first in South Africa. She took the French Open doubles title twice because she convinced herself the hostile crowd applauding her opponent was in fact a friendly crowd applauding her. She made up her mind that support for her adversary would fail to rattle her, using the sound of their applause to her own advantage and making her belief in a lie the source of her strength.

A financial planner, finding himself unable to concentrate while studying for the Series 7 exams, might choose an anchoring device to change his lethargic attitude into a more enthusiastic approach. Using all of his senses, he can focus on the positive, comfortable features of the room in which he studies—the cushions on the chair, the feel of the wooden desk, and the smell of coffee brewing. Then he can associate those sensations with the positive feelings of understanding and enjoying what he’s learning, combining a tangible sensation with the experience of accomplishment.

In sales, both thought-stopping and anchoring play a crucial role. A sales representative must recognize and stop the negative message he hears as soon as objections are raised. Mentally rehearsing positive replacement thoughts helps him recover a positive attitude more quickly.

A sales representative will anchor by using all of the knowledge he has about a prospect to guide him mentally as he rehearses his pitch. By the time he’s face-to-face with the customer, he has a strong mental image but can remain flexible as the conversation evolves.

It’s important to continue adding to the accuracy of the mental picture throughout the discussion. The deliberate concentration keeps the salesman feeling active and engaged. The feeling of vitality, in turn, enhances the customer’s experience and increases the likelihood of a sale.

Anchoring also can be used to prepare for speech presentations. Many managers, especially engineers, lack the necessary skills but are expected to give oral presentations on progress (project managers in particular).

Managers often need to sell their ideas to the budget planners. And they have to account for what their departments are doing. Industrial psychologists advocate a program that includes progressive relaxation and the mental review of a script the managers have written (based on past experiences).

Managers are instructed to associate the deep breathing exercises of the relaxation techniques with the imagery of the successful presentation. After two weeks of frequent practice, both body and mind respond automatically to the controlled-breathing rate. Managers’ presentations are less self-conscious; tension, anxiety and stress are significantly diminished; and the public expression of ideas becomes almost effortless.

“Reality testing” is another method used to alter expectations of achievement. A capable executive may not feel capable and will avoid taking risks and asserting authority. The people around him see his strengths and are frustrated because he holds himself back and fails to respond to situations because he lacks confidence. Such cases require feedback from colleagues so a new image, based on accurate information, can be created for the underachieving administrator.

When confronted with a high performance rating from his peers, he is gratified to learn that he actually has performed better than he imagined. Greater confidence in his own abilities has a powerful effect on his future performance.

The Creative Process

The imagination plays a crucial role in an area which applies to everyone from athletes to artists to businesspeople—creativity. Much of what we learn can be perceived as skill, or task-oriented. Just as common, however, is the need for innovative ideas, solutions, and decisions.

A tennis player who consistently has trouble with his serve may try to strengthen his performance by asking the coach for feedback and instruction, watching videotapes of his own and others’ performance, visualizing his improved serve, and focusing on the problem during physical practice sessions. Then, at a moment when he’s not consciously concentrating on the problem, everything falls into place. The alignment is perfect and the serve works.

The tennis player has experienced that elusive pivotal point in the creative process itself call incubation. That’s the time period when the mind apparently ignores the problem and all the data connected to it. While the mind “rests,” his attention deliberately turns elsewhere (perhaps to some routine activity). When he comes back to the problem, he realizes he has come up with a solution.

Managers can use this approach whenever planning is called for. For instance, a manager may be creating an activity plan for an employee whose performance is suffering. He’s not sure how to approach the assignment and has no strategy. He isolates the problem while brainstorming with colleagues. He has come up with a few ideas and jotted down some notes. At this point, it is necessary to table the decision and move on to routine matters.

Hours later, the solution surfaces in the manager’s mind, and he can make a decision. It is important here to avoid moving too quickly. And it is also important to write down the results, especially when working with multi-faceted plans.

The problem’s complexity often will determine the time spent and the number of stages involved in its processing. Executives have found it helpful to carry notebooks or tape recorders. It is when the mind seems to go into “automatic”—while driving, just before going to sleep—that great ideas often surface. Committing ideas to paper or audiotape allows them to be stored for later review.

Visualization techniques must be part of the corporate mission statement. Typically, the company president is the company. And his vision must be communicated as powerfully as possible to all employees. They must have a clear vision of the role they play in achieving corporate goals.

Employees must know that the company’s strategic plan will change from time to time. Recently a high-tech corporation found itself losing ground because industry conditions had changed since it began making its product.

Initially, the product was in such demand the company paid little attention to sales efforts and efficiency issues. Managers focused exclusively on production and research and development activities, which conformed to the company mission of providing high-quality research and product development. The company expanded, anticipating consumer needs and adding to its product line. But when consumers demanded better, more sophisticated products, the company floundered.

A four-step process known as the “communication loop” solved this company’s problem. The first step required top managers to revise and clarify the corporate mission statement. They asked themselves whether the customer needed fast delivery, personal attention, or a more accessible product. They ranked customer needs according to priorities. Their mission became more service-oriented.

Several key mid-level managers were asked to aid in the discovery process. Mid-level managers were helpful in forecasting changes because they were in a better position to recognize problem areas.

The second step involved communicating the revised mission to all employees, so they would have a clear picture of company goals and their contribution to them.

Through the third step, management created programs within each department which supported the corporate vision, and trained staff to meet appropriate departmental goals. Success in this area resulted in higher levels of pride and loyalty as well as a sense of shared values.

The fourth step called for top management to institute communication procedures that brought them feedback from the bottom of the hierarchy. Top managers discovered the usefulness of information from employees who work most closely with the customer. Opening up lines of communication so that information filtered upward gave decision-makers an edge in anticipating changing industry needs.

Arriving at a clear mission statement requires a level of reflection that is only recently being encouraged in corporate America. For individuals, it means believing in their own competence, focusing on mobilizing skills, and aligning with an organization or team.

by Joan Pastor, PhD