Stress takes many forms in our business lives. Exactly what it is very hard to define, but two statements seem to me to sum up the main cause and effect:
o The fear that more is expected of you than you can reasonably achieve.
o A feeling - real or imagined - that you are out of control and cannot regain the right track.
Who gets it? Everyone is susceptible, no-one is immune. However, some people deal with it more effectively. Over the years I have studied many people who seem to be able to thrive on stress - or have mastered the knack of shucking off the effects - and have formulated a ten-part plan to help others cope.
Why stress is so damaging?
o Health: long term stress can severely affect a persons health. The immune system is damaged, the nervous system is impaired and susceptibility to minor (and sometimes major) illnesses increases.
o Emotions: when under relentless and unmanageable stress, a persons self-worth is impaired. Relationships suffer and positive planning becomes very difficult.
o Performance: of course, when under long-term stress at work, the ability to function at peak levels diminishes. How can we be expected to give 110% if our minds and bodies are slowly shutting down through endless misuse? Typically, a highly stressed person, who is not managing it well, will subconsciously develop behaviors that attempt to minimize exposure to more stress:
o A fear to act - procrastination o Fear of failure o Avoidance of the issues o Withdrawal from ‘the cutting edge’
The result? You get sidelined and passed over for the next person who deals with the pressures better.
Not all stress is bad. Some can be beneficial, but only when kept in the right proportion.
Most people getting up to give a public presentation feel a high degree of stress. Those who are not paralyzes with fear often say that the pressure gave their talk an edge. That the adrenaline pumping made them sharp.
How many business people do you know who write documents and presentations weeks in advance? Hardly any, I bet. Most prefer to leave things until the last minute to ‘be at their sharpest.’ And it is true that when under the right amount of pressure, the mind tends to clear and we see to the very heart of the problem.
People who manage stress best seem to be able to manage the causes of stress, ensuring that too many situations do not develop at once. Because however positive some stresses may be, pile a whole lot of them up at the same time and you still are heading for a nervous breakdown.