Stressed Out? Great, You Are On Your Way
Here’s a crazy study. When injecting rats with ovarian extract, their adrenal cortexes became enlarged and their immune systems were activated. What does that even mean? I actually have no idea. However, when injecting rats with just plain saline, it triggered the same response.
So…what did we learn? We learned that by doing something that shocked or caused pain and discomfort in the rats (poking it with a needle), it would trigger an innate stress response which produced desirable effects, strengthening the specific part of the body that was under duress.
They learned that stress isn’t just harmful, it can also serve as a stimulus for growth and adaptation. So….
Stress stimulates growth.
In fact, they did a further study on this concept of stress to find out how someone can become a top expert at something. A team of researchers traveled to Berlin, Germany and embedded themselves among violinists at the illustrious Global Music Academy. This academy had an international reputation for training many of the world’s best violinists.
They examined the differences between the violinists who practiced about the same amount of time (50 hours a week). The best violinists spent significantly more time intensely focused on mastering something they were struggling to do and remained totally present when doing so. The best violinists were practicing more “deliberately” than anyone else. So…
Skill comes from struggle.
To take it one step further, top performers, just like everyone else, feel the nerves, anxiousness, and even a bit of fear that comes with competition. But the difference is, these elite athletes/performers interpret the stress and the sensations that come with it as an aid to their performance; it prepares them to get the most out of their bodies. The elites exhibit a challenge response to stress, and, as a result, it helps them channel their heightened physiological reaction to explosive execution.
So, what do we know so far about “Peak Performance?” Stress + Rest = Growth.
Stress can be the ultimate stimulator to help us gain skills, as long as we have the right perspective and use it to our advantage. Stress is your friend pushing you to build, grow and perfect.
If you’re feeling stressed today, remember: we’re only nervous about the stuff we care about. Sure, it’s tempting to think about an alternate reality where we have nothing to worry about, but removing all stress would require eliminating everything that makes our work meaningful – like how the players on the bench are a lot less nervous than the players in the game.
Here’s to the good stress that inspires us to climb mountains and get to the peak!