Is stress a four-letter word in your world?

 By Karen Natzel

Dolan Media Newswires
PORTLAND, OR—Do you ever find stress getting the best of you? The term "stress" was coined by Hans Selye in 1936, who defined it as "the non-specific response of the body to any demand for change." As we know, change is a constant—a rapid one in our world.
Stress can show up in a number of ways—in our bodies, moods and behaviors. There's situational stress (it's happening NOW), body stress (abuse, neglect) and mind stress (negative thinking). Stress often takes the shape of tension in the shoulders, increased irritability and impatience, sickness, lashing out, or a sense of loss of control and a fear of failure.
Many business leaders I've interviewed live with near anxiety levels of too much to do and too little time to do it. That kind of regular bombardment of pressure (real or perceived) can be overwhelming. And yet, many of these same individuals thrive on the persistent demands of their professional world!
Stress is an unavoidable consequence of life, but to what degree? When is it valuable and productive, and when is it unhealthy? Imagine a "stress bell curve," with "performance" on the vertical axis and "stress level" on the horizontal axis. Too little stress results in inactivity and lack of challenge; too much stress can bring overload to the point of anxiety, exhaustion and burnout. Both extremes deliver low performance. The right kind, level, frequency and duration of stress can prove to be a motivator for achievement. It's important to note that different people have different stress thresholds and stressors.
Choose to respond rather than react
"Stress is not what happens to us. It's our response TO what happens. And RESPONSE is something we can choose," the Rev. Maureen Killoran said.
Reacting can perpetuate chaos and feelings of being out of control. Take time to make a conscious choice to the stressors in life. A person's response to the demands of the world determines the stress level, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Real or imaginary?
Business leaders are constantly navigating opportunities, risks and relationships. In performing scenario analysis, leaders anticipate problems and optimize outcomes. They can also inadvertently generate imaginary stress. While it's valuable to identify potential consequences to key decisions, it's equally important to keep the perspective of what's real and what's not. Be careful when devoting attention and energy—those places may become your reality.
Get (the right) things done
Align what you do with your core values and top priorities. You may be surprised to find days cluttered with unnecessary tasks and distractions. Say "no" more often and say "yes" only to those opportunities, people and experiences that resonate with you and are aligned with your vision.
Let go of doing things perfectly
The inner critic is a stress monster. Instead, practice giving your best, and giving undivided attention to the task at hand. This kind of focus (the antithesis of multitasking), can put you in the flow that gets the right things done!
Take the K Communications Challenge:
Here are some ideas to change your relationship—and your response—to stress:
1. Write and post your top five priorities. This could be for the year, the quarter, the month; it could be in each core business area and in your personal life. Be clear about what's most important.
2. Write and post your top five strengths. Leverage and build upon those to fortify your immune system.
3. Note progress on your priorities. At the end of each day, take five minutes to review what you have accomplished.
4. Take three seconds. If you tend to overcommit, before choosing "yes" or "no," take three seconds to pause; then respond with more "no" answers. (Researcher Brene Brown turns the ring on her finger three times before declaring her choice.)
5. Practice gratitude. Each day, write down five things for which you are grateful. It's difficult to simultaneously feel grateful and stressed out!
6. Pace yourself. What is the real deadline for the task? Sometimes we place undue pressure on ourselves by trying to accomplish way too much in too short a time frame.
7. Ask yourself: What am I putting off or avoiding that is causing me to feel stressed out? Find the courage and time to address it!
What's your de-stressor action plan?
Choose an approach that might be at the heart of your stress; or choose an action step that is aligned with one of your strengths; or create a new habit that supports execution of your top priorities. I suggest committing to just one small act daily to shift your stress to healthy and productive levels!
Karen Natzel of K Communications is a business therapist who helps leaders cultivate robust, high-performing company cultures. Contact her at 503-806-4361 or at karen@ natzel. net.
Entire contents copyrighted © 2013 by The Dolan Company. All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part without written permission is expressly forbidden.

Subscribe to the Legal News!
Full access to public notices, articles, columns, archives, statistics, calendar and more
Day Pass Only $4.95!
One-County $80/year
Three-County & Full Pass also available