I recently read an article by Dr. Travis Bradberry called "How Successful People Stay Calm." In it he says that your "ability to manage your emotions and to remain calm under pressure has a direct link to your performance." The vast majority of successful people have developed the skill to keep calm and carry on, as the British wrote in a motivational poster during World War II.
He pointed out that moderate levels of stress keep the brain engaged and keep us performing at optimal levels whereas prolonged, high levels of stress can be detrimental, increasing the risk of heart disease, depression and obesity. We can't control some stressors in our lives, but we can control how we react to them.
When traffic is unusually bad on your morning commute or when a patient is being extremely difficult, you can choose to become upset or you can choose to empathize with the other commuters or the patient and release your stress.
He listed a number of ways to reduce stress. One is to focus for a few minutes on your breathing while blocking other thoughts. Another is getting sufficient sleep each night to allow your brain not only to process the previous day's thoughts but also to allow it to recharge for the day ahead. Yet another is to limit caffeine intake since it triggers the release of adrenaline, which is the source of the "fight or flight" response.
You can fight stress by noting on a regular basis those things for which you are grateful. You can fight it by cutting out your negative self talk. When negative self-talk creeps in, you have to check to see if it is valid. If it isn't valid, forget it. If it is valid and is something you can change, change it. Don't dwell on the "what ifs." Instead, look for the positives.
I think we focus on problems because those are things that need our attention. If you write down a list of the things that are going well, things you are grateful for as well as a list of your worries, you'll likely see that your list of good things will be longer than your worries. It's calming to remind yourself of all of the things that are going your way.
You can also reduce stress by gorging on junk food and chocolate. Oh, wait, that wasn't in the article; forget that.
For the complete article and to read more about Dr. Bradberry, look for the Early to Rise website and search for "How Successful People Stay Calm."