How To Quantify Stress Levels, Manage Your Colors...and Execute

Posted November 16, 2022 in
Leaders Leaders
Let's talk stress for a moment and how to quantify it...

Developed by Lt. Col Jeff Cooper (and later amended by Lt. Col Grossman), The Cooper Color Code System of awareness gives us a baseline to identify the psychological condition we are currently in.

The System includes four colored Stages (White, Yellow, Orange, Red; *Grossman added Grey and Black), and directly describes a person's mental state during a stressful event.

Most of these phases/colors have pro's and con's, but the point is: As you move into RED towards BLACK, there will be diminishing returns. For instance, a small amount of adrenaline is great if you are about to run a 5k. Your body is preparing itself for activity and raising your heart rate before you even start running (Condition: Orange)

That said, a large dump of adrenaline is NOT good if you are about to conduct a Sales call (Condition: Red). As this chemical cocktail enters your bloodstream and your heart rate climbs; hearing, speaking, thinking, judgement, and fine motor skills begin to diminish or cease to function properly.

Thank you evolution. 

Anyways, back to the color codes!

The color phases are progressive, and can be studied on their own in depth to further understand each. But, in simple terms:

White: Heart Rate Normal. You have no stress. (You are like a kid on Christmas Day)
Yellow: Heart Rate Normal. You have awareness of potential stressors (ex - meeting in 30 minutes, blind-date tonight, deadlines approaching).
Orange: Heart Rate Elevated. You are beginning to be affected by immediate stressors, and "tunnel vision" (focus) begins to take place (This is the highest you want your heart rate to go in social interactions).
Red: Heart Rate 115 - 145 BPM. Full adrenaline dump. Your body is starting to shut down and ALL the simple things become very difficult to control (ex - breathing is hard to control, fine motor skills cease to exist, voice waivers...fight or flight mode).
Grey: Heart Rate 145 - 175 BPM. You are about to lift a car off someone. 
Black: Heart Rate over 175 BPM. Maximum heart rate. You cannot function. Complete shut down due to heart rate and adrenaline ( might pee yourself).

As you go from White to Black, your heart rate becomes elevated and adrenaline is progressively released into your body. At a certain point, you are optimized. You are at the perfect peak of performance and heart rate.


But, past that peak, as the heart rate continues to climb, your performance begins to deteriorate. Spoiler alert: You can't hit a game-winning free throw deep in Condition Red.    

So, what to do? Wait...don't say it...

Yes, Tactical breathing! Manage that color = manage that stress

By controlling our breathing, we can lower our heart rates. If we can lower our heart rates...we CAN CONTROL which condition we are in!

Disclaimer: It's not easy. 

Next time you are watching a sports game, watch what the person on the free-throw line does before they shoot the high-stress shot, watch what the hitter is doing with the bases loaded in the bottom of 9th, with 2 outs.

They are breathing!

So, how can we apply all this knowledge to our day-to-day Client interactions?

We must strive to operate in an optimal condition of arousal...we are aware, heart rate is elevated slightly but under control, and we are primed to crush it. All cylinders are firing. You are in the zone. We feel excited to be on the call, but not scared. We have boundless energy, but it's not affecting our speech or ability to think.

If you feel your heart rate climbing, have to slow it down. Stay in control.

Manage your colors.

Never go above Orange with a Client. 


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Becca Manganello
🎉 And if you need to learn how to calm down... Breathe through one nostril 🙌🏻🙌🏻🙌🏻🙌🏻

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