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 stress 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.
Another approach Derya examines seems particularly helpful to me as I’ve learned over the years (most recently from Brian Tracy) that self-talk is powerful because “what you say to yourself when no one is listening is what all the world sees when everyone is watching.” So monitoring your self-talk is an important step, and then intervening in it if it is leading you to stress, failure, illness, or other negative outcomes.Derya calls this “narrative intervention therapy.”
Essentially, the story you tell yourself about your life is up to you. It can anticipate negative outcomes and generate fear about possible stressful events. Or it can entertain alternative endings and new responses to potentially stressful situations.
You are the author of your story. You can change the outcome.
Unconsciously it seems we actually give situations and feelings too much power, something Derya calls “pathologizing” a source of stress. The narrative intervention approach begins with separating you from the condition you are suffering from, for example, instead of saying “I’m depressed” your could say, “a feeling of depression is affecting me.” The difference may seem subtle, but it is a first step in separating yourself from the source of uncomfortable feelings, for example, stress.
We help our clients change their self-talk every day.
We also help with their career trajectories—particularly now when it is so critical to take an inventory of your transferrable skills and consider a change of industry, or role, of function… for so many reasons including your employment security, your compensation, your health, and your personal satisfaction.
Our Clarity Program© (the first step in our five-step career change process that has helped more than 120 executives land great opportunities even during a pandemic) helps executives do just that—evaluate how their personalities have helped or hindered their professional development and what they may want to change about their behavior, clarify their current whole-life circumstances to focus on what aspects of their lives may require more emphasis going forward, and then define clearly where they would like to be professionally, economically, and personally at some point in the future, usually five years out.
Here is what one recent client had to say about his Clarity Program© experience:
“I knew I needed help sharpening my approach to finding the job I wanted, but I was surprised how quickly the Clarity Program© was able to bring things into focus and really help me identify what I needed to do and set concrete, actionable items to follow up with.”
Steve Taccogna, November 2020
In any case, stress is not a normal circumstance. You may simply watch the interviews with Derya Ozes and gain some relief.
Or, perhaps you will contact The Barrett Group to explore your professional opportunities (while leveraging our thirty years of experience). We hope that you give us a call. We make it our job to help you find yours.
Whichever path you choose, feel better and stay healthy.
The Barrett Group