Are we at a tipping point or too stressed to notice?
Stress is not new. It is always with us. Some of us thrive off of pressure. Others keep it at bay. The good news is that we have more access to knowledge and tools to lead and live in healthy ways than ever before. But are we too stressed to notice?
Here are several stats and trends to consider.
-80% of workers feel stress at work, about half say they want to learn how to better manage it; 42% say their coworkers need such help
– The biggest stressors are children and work; (49% for women; 40% for men)
– 20% check social media constantly (up from 17% in 2016)
– Outcomes of stress include lying awake at night (45% of Americans)
– The US is not alone; Germany has a burnout problem, China’s worry is up
– Job pressure (co-worker tension, manager relationship, overload) consistently ranks in the top 3 causes of stress
So, what exactly is stress?
You can think of it in terms of physical, mental, or emotional strain or tension. I like to think of stress in terms of when our inner resources can’t keep pace with the perceived demands we experience.
Studies show that approximately 75% of all illness is related to stress and 83% percent of employees report that work is a significant source of stress.
Of course, not all stress is “bad.” In fact, stress can be a good thing like the nervous anticipation before a race or excitement in presenting a breakthrough idea at work.
The caution is when stress becomes chronic without support. This stress has a cumulative effect including a flight or fight response – an instinct to resist or run away from a situation. It takes a full 90-minutes for the metabolism to return to normal when the response is over, not to mention the time it takes to bring cortisol levels back to normal.
One way to increase awareness of stress is to do a mental scan and evaluate our level of anxiety relative to its difficulty level as illustrated below.
Too much anxiety results in being overwhelmed. Not enough challenge contributes to complacency. The aim is to notice where you are along this continuum, adjust if necessary, and incorporate tools to manage daily pressures.
Skill Performance Stress Continuum
There is little doubt that our world has accelerated; social media platforms, a constant expectation to deliver results, hyper-competitive landscapes, managing change continually – and much more.
Our management practices have not kept pace with tools we know that quiet the mind and help navigate turbulence – namely the ability to direct attention and focus
Fortunately, mindfulness-and-emotional-based tools like breathing and meditation, gentle stretching, emotional self-awareness and management, and knowledge are increasing our ability to lead and live with increased effectiveness and well-being.
Here are my top-10 recommendations for sustainable leadership.
- Baseline your stress – take the Holmes-Rahe stress inventory. https://www.stress.org/holmes-rahe-stress-inventory/
- Start paying attention to your breath – take several deep breaths every day.
- Multi-tasking is a myth; keep it in check and do one thing at a time.
- Develop email discipline; check periodically and prioritize.
- Use a “powerful pause” and collect yourself several times daily.
- Recognize tension and stress in your body and do something about it.
- Use face-to-face communication as needed; especially with differences.
- Reflect frequently on your emotional state (i.e., excited, anxious, bored).
- Prioritize time to re-charge; go for a walk, eat without distraction.
- Adopt a mindful practice (i.e., meditate, try yoga, write, reflect).
The cost of job stress is estimated at over $300 billion annually as a result of accidents, absenteeism, turnover, diminished productivity, medical, legal, and insurance costs, and workers compensation.
Are we at a tipping point or too stressed to notice? Change is within our grasp. We are fortunate to have so many tools available to support our journey. What better time than now to start to lead and live in healthy and vibrant ways!