Stress Is In The Eye Of The Beholder

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Holiday cheer has not made it to the airport I’m currently sitting in. From business travelers to harried families with young children, stress levels are high.  In fact, the man sitting next to me just saw the “stress” clipart I’m looking at and commented dejectedly, “That’s me.”  The office is much the same. December is upon us and the end of year reality can rattle even the steadiest personality. Effective leaders can help their teams navigate this dicey time. 

This begs the question, what is stress?  We all know what it feels like, but where does it come from? According to Alan Levin, founder of an organization that cares for stressed-out lawyers, “Stress is the feeling we have when we perceive that we have a need or obligation [but] inadequate resources to handle it.” Which is good news.  What this means is that our experience of stress is connected to our perception of how equipped we are to handle it. And, there are lots of practical ways to change that, from adjusting our expectations to implementing more effective time management techniques. 

One of the more effective ways of adjusting our expectations is to acknowledge the temporary nature of this intense season. Like the old adage, it is key to remember that “this too shall pass.”  Short spurts of stress can actually be helpful in our ability to focus our attention. So this December, be kind to yourself and honest with your team.  Acknowledge the stress of the season, rely on established work flows, don’t sweat the small stuff and plan for some kind of self-reward once you’ve all navigated this season! 

Long stretches of stress lead to burnout which can dramatically impact team performance. Don’t let a spurt of stress have unnecessary lingering effects.

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