Coping with Coronavirus Stress – Get Out of the Red Zone!

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🎶 Let’s talk about stress baby. Let’s talk about you and me. 🎶

Okay, I can’t sing and I don’t even have to tell you I can’t sing because you just heard me not being able to sing. Oops.

Hey there, it’s Dr. E.

Let’s talk about stress. Do you happen to know anyone who’s feeling a little or a lot stressed right now?

Yeah, I thought so. These are stressful times, so what I want to do is to help you better control your stress. 

Now, I work with leaders around the world to help them be better leaders, and one of the things that we always start with is what goes on in the minds. Why? Because what goes on up there impacts what goes on out in the world, and a stressed brain is not a rational brain.

Consider this: stress goes on a continuum from 0 to 10.

“0” is no stress at all. You just got off the massage table. Life is great! 

“10” out of 10 is overwhelming stress. So if you are at a 10/10 for anger, you may be yelling or having it’s the proverbial steam coming out of your ears.

Not only do high levels of stress not feel good, but when we’re at high levels of stress we think very differently than we do at low-level stress.

I call it the green zone when you’re at low levels of stress, maybe like a 1 or a 2 or a 3.

When we were in the green zone, we can see all different perspectives. We’re using all of our frontal lobe, that structure that differentiates us from other animals. It allows us to engage in executive functioning, problem solving, perspective taking.

So when we’re in the green zone and someone does something, maybe someone on our team, we might think, ‘Ah, that’s just Pat.’

The higher up on the stress scale we go, though, the more narrow our focus becomes. And instead of seeing all different perspectives as we do in the green zone, when we get to the red zone at a 7 out of 10 or higher, we’re focusing on what’s wrong. In Psychology we call it negative filtering, where you focus on what’s wrong and fail to notice what is going well (or even OK).

In the Red Zone, we tend to personalize what other people do. So, that thing that your colleague did in the green zone, when you thought, ‘Yeah, that’s just Pat” is viewed very differently.

When you’re in the Red Zone, UGH! It frustrates you. You personalize it, “why are they doing this to me?” And you catastrophize it. It’s a huge deal!

We see things differently in the Red Zone as opposed to the green zone, and there’s a biological basis for it. Because when you’re in the Red Zone, you’re using less of this beautiful structure called the frontal lobe and more of your limbic system. 

The limbic system focuses on emotional reasoning, fight or flight, survival! And there is an adaptive mechanism for focusing on the negative and trying to save yourself, such as when something is actually attacking you. But it is not always helpful when the event is not life-threatening.

When we are in the Red Zone, we see things in a more negative light. We don’t think 100% rationally, and we don’t act 100% rationally.

I always tell my coaching clients, “if you’re in the Red Zone, do not let anything out of your mouth (because that’s when you say things you’ll later regret). And don’t put anything in your mouth (because that’s when you tend to consume things you later regret).

Now, how does this apply to leadership? And when I say leader you may be a leader of a team. You may be a leader of a company. You may lead yourself. (Did you get out of bed on your own this morning and get dressed? If so, you lead yourself.)

So we’re all leaders. A key to strong leadership is controlling your stress level. Because when you are at a 7 out of 10 or higher, when we’re in this Red Zone, you cannot be a great leader.

Get out of the Red Zone, so that you can lead yourself, your team, your family, your community, people around you even better.

Get out of the Red Zone. It’s a great start to being an even better leader.

Discover how to control your stress by staying out of the Red Zone with my free relaxation audios:

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