There are essentially two types of stress: the kind where you see your life flash in front of your eyes when faced with imminent death or the slow building stress that is related to work, or personal relationships and all that comes with these two relationships. Pretty much these are the two broad categories that many people report feeling ‘stressed-out’ and do get physically sick over.
What the researches on stress have shown me is stress as a separate entity is not real. What is real, is how we react to the situations we face either with a negative attitude or a positive attitude. We either react with a strong sense of control or a weak sense of control over the situation. The result we get from these situations is either positive or negative; this leaves us looking back on the situation and feeling either satisfied or dissatisfied with the outcome.
Recently, a client shared his desire to lose weight, get back into shape, leave work earlier and get home to spend more time with his family as well as make better eating choices. A simple question to this client who was a CEO in his organization was, what can you do to make time to eat lunch? (He was skipping lunches and overeating at dinner time). His immediate answer without stopping to think was he doesn’t have any time. Work is far too busy and he usually has noon hour meetings booked. He went on with a long list of why he could not stop to eat lunch at noon.
I followed up with the question, when during your work day would you be able to stop for lunch? This time he had to think more and I could see him mentally clearing his calendar to come up with the solution. He did, and several weeks later I saw him and not only was he eating lunch, but leaving the office earlier and now talking with a personal trainer to help him get into shape.
The experience of this CEO is common with the clients I see for coaching. They get used to operating in a routine so much so that they miss the slow build up of burnt-out and only realize the deep hole they have dug themselves into when they get sick or experience a crisis. The real stress in this CEO’s situation and many others is falling victim to the belief we as humans can just keep on producing at a high level every day without any negative consequences. Even machines and robots have down times for service and maintenance to ensure they keep running at a high efficient level.
When did we learn to operate on a 24-hour cycle 7-days per week? Why did we learn this stress-inducing way of working? If we don’t change the way we work and live we will continue to see more people falling victim to ‘stress’ when in reality we are responsible for the frenetic pace at which we live and work as a society.
What activities have you taken on that are adding to an already full-plate? What aspect of your personal and professional lives have you given up in order to full-fill work and volunteer responsibilities? How are you hurting as a result?
Next month I will share with you 7 Strategies for Managing Stress.