Stress is everywhere! It is like an outbreak hitting everyone. It almost feels like it is contagious and spreading!!
Many leaders are stressed out, so naturally, they think this is a normal condition. But is it? Does it have to be this way?
I Say NO!
Life doesn’t have to be lived under so much negative stress!
Stress does have a purpose and it is useful sometimes. But many of us are under a great deal of negative stress which can actually be life-threatening instead of life-supporting! At the least, it is turning us gray and raising our blood pressure. This high level of stress shows up at work, at home and in our relationships. And it’s just not smart to live with.
Stress impacts your ability to perform and causes your leadership to suffer.
What To Do?
How can we manage our stress?
Well, actually you don’t manage stress, your best hope is to minimize stress. Most of our stress is self-induced and unnecessary.
So, how do you minimize stress?
The first step always begins with awareness.
Let’s begin by understanding “what is stress?” According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary:
Stress noun \ˈstres\: “a physical, chemical, or emotional factor that causes bodily or mental tension and may be a factor in disease causation”
Experts further define stress as the activation of the “flight or fight response,” also called the “stress response.”
The stress response is your mental and physical reaction to a threat. Whether it is a physical threat or a psychological one–your body goes into a heightened state of awareness. Your brain releases a flood of adrenaline to your body, your blood flow is increased to your muscles, your heartbeat quickens, and your senses are more acute. All of this is in preparation to eitherfight or flee.
Hans Selye first introduced the concept of stress in the 1930’s. He observed through various experiments with animals that when they were exposed to physical and emotional stimuli (later called “stressors”) they experienced pathological changes.
He also discovered that if these animals were exposed to these stressors long enough they developed diseases similar to the diseases of humans. This was indeed a discovery because prior to this it was thought that disease was caused only by pathogens.
Hans Selye’s original definition of stress was as a response to a stimulus. However, the interpretation that most of us use to describe stress today is both as a response and as a stimulus.
You can feel stressed-out (response) by all of the stress in your life (stimulus).
So What’s the Deal
So really what it comes down to is: There is no real definition of stress because it is subjective.
What is stressful to one person may not be stressful to another. But most of us would agree that when we hear the word stress we think of it as something negative.
Stress in itself isn’t necessarily a bad thing. There are times when being in this state can be very beneficial, like if you are competing in an athletic event or if you have to run from a predator or defend yourself from an assaulter.
Where we run into problems and why stress has a negative connotation is when our stress response is activated for prolonged periods of time. This is when we develop continuing Symptoms of Stress.
What is important is that we realize the condition and work to reduce its occurrence and impact. This will help us think clearer and accomplish our goals as leaders easier.
Can you imagine a life where you don’t feel out of control? Do you believe that you can have a balanced life where there is enough time to do what you need and want to do? Wow, a stress-free life, what would that feel like? How would a reduction in stress impact your leadership?
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Karen Parsons is president of Successful Solutions Life Coaching
She offers Life, Business and Career Coaching for Individuals and Organizations
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