Book Review: Success Under Stress

12 Aug 2014

The AWS Clinical Practice Committee reviews Success Under Stress: Powerful tools for staying calm, confident, and productive when the pressure’s on by Sharon Melnick, Ph.D.

“The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.” – Chinese proverb

We recently reviewed the book Success Under Stress, by Sharon Melnick, Ph.D., a business psychologist affiliated with Harvard medical school that works with leading business professionals nationwide. The subtitle of the book sums up the reasons to read it: “Powerful tools for staying calm, confident and productive when the pressure’s on”. While her examples are very business oriented and may be difficult to apply directly to our daily lives, the principles and ideas behind her examples are very applicable and resounded with many of us on the committee. One of the key points she makes early on, is that we cannot control (or be responsible for) everything in our lives. We must focus on the things over which we can influence the outcome, and do those well. Take ownership of your contribution, and don’t stress over portions not within your control.

A key to succeeding in stressful situations is in understanding the source of the stress. She defines stress as an internal response “when the demands of a situation exceed your perceived ability to control them”. When she describes the average business professional as having 30-100 ongoing projects, being interrupted 7 times an hour, and facing communication from multiple technologies 24h a day, suddenly their lives seem a little more similar to ours! She also emphasizes that you cannot give 100% of your effort for 24h all day every day. Your mind and body need recovery time. Planning “off-button” activities not only decreases your level of stress, but makes you more productive when you are “on”. The key to surviving, and succeeding, is in how you perceive your role, how you exert control over your day, and what you consider to be success.

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