Written by Helen Stockill business coach with Resolutions Unlimited. 01925 712100 www.resolutionsunlimited.co.uk
Modern living has giving us many advantages over our ancestors. We are now more prosperous than any generation previous to us and we have come to expect those standards of living that would have been considered the lap of luxury in the past. Of course the way life works is that with any cause there is a subsequent effect and one of the most dramatic effects of our desire to seek bigger, better and more luxurious life styles is stress.
Defining stress is a difficult one and if you speak to three different experts you will probably get three different definitions. As a coach I claim no expertise in the medical basis and treatment of stress – what I can do is ask some of the questions that help you to recognise times of stress and offer some common sense advice for the earlier stages.
A Word From the Experts
The most commonly accepted definition of stress –attributed to Richard S Lazarus is that “stress is a condition or feeling experienced when a person perceives that demands exceed the personal and social resources the individual is able to mobilize.”
Lets be honest you are unlikely to feel stress when you have the time, experience and skills to deal with a situation. You may however start to feel stress when you do not see yourself as being able to handle the demands put upon you. Stress is therefore a negative experience. It is not an inevitable consequence of an event: It depends a great deal on your personal perceptions of a situation and your perceived ability to cope with it. The stress response inside us is part instinct and part to do with the way we think.
Can There Be Positive Effects of Our Demanding Lifestyle?
In some cases, the pressures and demands that may cause stress can be positive in their effect. One example of this is where sportsmen and women utilise adrenaline to power a winning performance. Another example is where tight deadlines are used to motivate people who seem bored or unmotivated.
And the Down Sides
In most work situations jobs, our stress responses cause our performance to suffer. A calm, rational, controlled and sensitive approach is usually called for in dealing with most difficult problems at work.
Negative Thoughts Crowd Our Minds
You may be aware that your conscious mind is only able to cope with a limited amount of information. For most people the capacity of the conscious is only around 7 pieces of information. Similarly, although we have huge processing power in our unconscious mind, we cannot be aware of more than a few thoughts at any one time. As we become stressed, the things we should be doing, the worries and the negative thinking begin to fill our conscious mind. The more our brain is overloaded, the more our performance can suffer. The more our performance suffers, the more negative thoughts fill our mental capacity. Other research has shown that stress reduces people’ s ability to deal with large amounts of information. Both decision-making and creativity are impaired because people are unable to take account of all the information available. This inability accounts for the common observation that highly stressed people will persist in a course of action even when better alternatives are available.
Helping Yourself Cope With Stress
Three key areas can help combat the early stages of stress.Take some Action:
Confront the problem causing the stress, write it down and develop some possible solutions.Become Aware of Your Thinking:
Ask yourself the question – are these thoughts helping me find a solution? If the answer is no then formulate different thoughts – catch them and change them.Accept What You Cannot Change and Change What you Cannot Accept:
Where something has happened over which we have no power and no control, acceptance is far more productive than worrying. Start by writing down a list of the sources of stress that you are thinking about the most. Prioritise each source of stress so that you can see its relative importance. Rewrite the list in order of importance. The items at the top of the list should be the most important for you to resolve, while the ones at the bottom of the list can wait until you have the time to deal with them. Once you have identified the most important sources of stress in your life, the next step is to identify the best route to deal with each one. Bring all of these steps together to create your Action Plan. Write down exactly what you are going to do to manage all of the important sources of stress in your life, and when you are going to do it. Make sure you are being kind to yourself at this stage. I have worked with people who become stressed about the pressures of their own stress action plan!
Other Considerations Are Your Work Demands Reasonable?
To do your job effectively, you need to fully understand what is expected of you. Confusion about the level of expectation is a key factor in stress; we may end up doing far more than is really needed. Open and honest conversations with your manager can help establish if this level of workload is normal and if you can get their help in balancing it out. Ultimately you may decide the expectations in the role are always going to create stress for you and as such another career path way may be advisable.How good is Your Time Leadership?
What is it you and your company focus the most effort into? Is it results or activity? If you could produce the same or even better results by leading yourself within the time available you can help take control of stress.
5 of the top tips we recommend
for time leadership are:
1 Plan your own time in first.
2 Treat personal time with the same integrity that you would an important business appointment
3 If you never reach the end of a to – do list then stop using them! Instead as a task comes along put it into your diary with the necessary time allocation. You will soon find that the reason you never reached the bottom of your list was because there simply isn’ t enough hours in the day!
4 Look to the long term when you do your planning. 5 Block in periods of time in your diary and just write the word NO! When someone asks to steal that time from you, you can open your diary and quite honestly say “I’ m sorry I have something in for that time”
Most of us have suffered uncomfortable stress at some time in our lives and if it has become a normal part of your working day then now is the time to take back control. Like most things taken in excess – stress can be seriously detrimental to both your physical and mental health.
I wish you all well in regaining the much longed for work/life balance.