Monday, November 5, 2012

Stress Control

This one is a little different, but I hope you find it of value. This information comes from an email newsletter written by Tom Hoobyar. The U.S. Navy SEALs are generally considered our best, most highly trained commando force. When planning a surgical strike, such as the assassination of Osama Bin Laden, our leaders use SEAL teams. Their training is intentionally designed to wash out all but the very best. A SEAL must be able to operate perfectly under conditions of unbelievable stress. Imagine, trying to do a job knowing that anything less than perfection will result in your death and the deaths of your friends. Now that is stress.

The Navy was losing about 75% of SEAL candidates in the first few weeks of training. These men were incredible athletes. They tested very high on intelligence tests. They had the background and skill set to be successful, but way too many were failing. Why? Navy psychologist who studied the problem discovered the key difference between success and failure was the ability to handle stress. The highly qualified candidates that failed didn’t have any shortage of abilities or talent. However, they lacked technologies or practices that would allow them to deal with extreme stress.

The SEAL Command Psychologist, Commander Eric Potterat revealed the four most important techniques that are now taught to SEAL candidates early in their training.

1)Goal Setting –This is not the kind of goals I write about in this blog or what is found in life purpose and motivational teaching. This is how to survive through the next 30 minutes of a live fire exercise. It is the same kind of narrow focus used by successful performers and athletes. Nothing exists to the Olympic sprinter but the next 10 seconds. If you are facing a very stressful situation at work or in your life, narrow your focus until nothing else exists but the immediate task.

2)Mental Rehearsal (Visualization) –Commando missions require perfect execution of complex actions performed by a team. In preparing for such a mission, soldiers go over what is expected from them over and over in their minds. Again, it is similar to techniques taught Olympic athletes. It has been demonstrated that systematically visualizing an activity such as basketball foul shots for a ½ an hour produces results that are almost as good as actually practicing foul shots for ½ hour. Combining physical and mental practice produces much better results than either method used without the other.

3)Words (Self Talk) –Actually this one surprised me a bit. The words that the SEAL trainees used when talking to themselves proved of enormous importance. Today they are taught to say, “Stop!” or “Cancel!” if they find themselves engaging in negative self-talk or thinking about failure. Then they are taught to say in their own words, “You can do this.” Or “This is easy.” Whatever works for that particular individual.

4)Arousal Control –This is a basic breathing exercise designed to lower your blood pressure and raise the oxygen level in your brain. First, inhale deeply as you count to six in your mind. Then hold your breath for a count of two. Then exhale for another count of six. Repeat three times.

Try these exercises the next time you find yourself overwhelmed by life or when you get that sick feeling in the pit of your stomach or that clammy feeling that comes on just before a panic attack. If it works when people are trying to kill you it will probably help with your problem.

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