You think you have stress?

Every time you feel stressed you may want to pause and think about the millions of people who have it worse than you: homeless, jobless, under a ventilator…. it may help. Nevertheless, normal workplace stress is also debilitating, affecting your performance, your outlook, and ultimately your health.

So, is it normal to have so much stress?

Well, no, actually. But there are so many additional sources of stress right now:

  • Economic meltdown
  • The collapse of whole industries
  • Worrying about contracting or recovering from Covid-19
  • Managing home-schooling
  • Stocking up before another lock-down
  • Social unrest
  • Political turmoil

Workplace stress might seem almost like a relief. But it is not normal to feel stress all the time. This insight came to me when Derya Ozes, organizational psychologist, and I spent several hours on two in-depth interviews on the subject of stress.

Part One of our interview examines the origins of stress that at its core derives from a lack of equilibrium. It is literally like losing your balance and having to adjust your footing and shift your weight to stay upright… continuously. From my numerous discussions with executives every week it seems to me that many are actually suffering from stress without understanding it. Some do not even realize they are stressed. Others do but regard it as normal. Still others recognize it but do not know what to do about it.

Many executives who are unhappy at work could actually do something about it if they would recognize their situations.

So, the first interview (Part One) examines not only the sources and symptoms of stress but some of the behaviors it can produce particularly in the workplace. You may be familiar with some of these, such as:

  • A tendency to perfectionism that actually paralyses a person, function, or organization because nothing is ever quite perfect.
  • Or perhaps a need for approval that is so pronounced that no new ideas are ever aired because the originators do not know how to verify whether their ideas will meet with approval in advance and therefore do not have the nerve to offer them.

There are many more organizational implications of stress. Derya does a good job of highlighting some of the more common stress-related issues.

However, just understanding that you are stressed may not suffice.

Some of our readers would actually like to do something about their stress. For them, Part Two of the interview offers some really interesting insights. It delves into two therapeutic approaches that you may be able to experiment with, even without professional help.

One of these revolves around cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). CBT helps an individual step outside their stress temporarily so as to address it. For example, let us say that you have adopted an avoidance response to a particular stressor (a person, an event, or an aspect of your work). Avoidance gives you a temporary sense of relief. But ultimately only allows the source of tension to accumulate over time. It will eventually come to some sort of blow up with even more stress as a result. In Part Two Derya explains how creating a thought record of the feeling of stress, your response, and then the conscious identification of other possible responses—responses that might be more productive—can help you change behavior and have less stress.

Peter Irish
The Barrett Group

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