What You Need to Know About Stress to Work, Play & Be Your Best!
Most of us are familiar with stress as the Fight / Flight / Freeze response to the classic sighting of a scary snake, or lion or tiger or bear. We know our bodies are hard-wired to rise automatically to meet challenging and even life-threatening moments with heightened alertness, strength and stamina. ‘Good stress’ definitely exists, to give us super-charged motivation and power to do extra-ordinary things, and even save our own and others’ lives. And it’s a great thing that it does.
On the other hand … most of us are living every day with the effects of what I’ve come to call ‘The Stress Mess’. There seems to be a tipping point where the extra energy of good stress starts to take a negative toll, zapping our clarity, health and productivity. Neuroscience can now track brain function under stress, mapping how we move to more primitive limbic brain activity and less pre-frontal cortex higher cognition.
Rational thinking, good judgment and decision-making are all impacted. Emotional intelligence and patience suffer, causing anxiety and reactivity, with dramatic consequences in communication and relationships. Physical symptoms appear such as fatigue, sleeplessness, upset stomachs and ulcers, headaches, backaches, painful tension, even killer diseases.
So it is vitally important to be in tune with your body, mood, thought patterns and behaviors. You need to know when you’re heading down the slippery slope of ‘bad stress’ and diminishing returns. Given the pressures and pace of modern business life, here are some essentials that every executive, and employee, needs to know about stress:
Stress releases powerful neurochemicals and hormones that prepare us for action. The adrenal glands produce more adrenaline and cortisol – speeding up heart rate, blood pressure and metabolism. Trembling, sweating, breathlessness, etc. can compromise leadership presence, body language, and performance.
Too much or prolonged stress taxes the immune system, by keeping the body flooded with adrenaline, cortisol and free radicals.
Acute and chronic stress are epidemic, causing massive dysfunction in families, businesses, social and political life. The statistics are scary, with stress underlying over 50% of fatal diseases, and costing half-trillion dollars in healthcare and missed work.
Maladaptive behaviors increase under stress, making people prone to further harmful “Stress-Mess” effects (workaholism, abuse of drugs, alcohol, smoking, food, sex, etc).
If you don't take action, you can get caught up in a destructive Stress Syndrome, with heavy damaging costs in both your personal and professional life.
It is crucial to realize how you are literally working and leading under the influence of stress bio-chemicals and limbic brain function. Your nervous system is on constant high alert, and you may feel and act like you’re always in some state of emergency. Not only that, adrenaline is addicting. It becomes more and more difficult to slow down; eat, sleep or exercise properly; think and decide clearly; break the cycle and clear up the messes of stress.
Monitoring stress levels, on a daily, weekly and in-general basis, is vitally important to your own well-being and performance, and that of your company and workforce. Images like The Human Function Curve and The Stress-O-Meter are very helpful to keep on track. If it’s hard to pay attention to your own signals, try listening to feedback from your spouse, kids and co-workers who can tell you when you’re stressed out.
Here’s the good news:
· Stress is a response – and you can respond differently.
· Learning to monitor your stress and using strategies that create more balance and ease is not hard, feels good, and can even make work more fun!
· In the timeless tradition of the ancient eastern sages who proclaimed “Do Less ~ Accomplish More!” we in today’s world can discover how to Stress Less and Prosper More!™ It can take just moments or minutes to center your mind in your belly; take a Breathing Break to get clear and calm; do in-office stretches to relax and re-energize; drink a protein smoothie instead of coffee; take a power-nap or power-walk.
What’s not to like about an imperative to take more and healthier breaks at work, rest and sleep enough, get more massages, go to the movies more often or out to play (golf, tennis, cards, catch, dancing …), or whatever it is that refreshes and renews you? What wouldn’t work about enjoying more re-creation, knowing that it clears the way to greater creation and production?
Stressing Less is not what you get to do once your business is up and running, or that big project is complete, or the pandemics is past, or your teenagers are really past puberty. Periods of ‘good stress’ intensity are natural and vitalizing. ‘Bad stress’ can be destructive, in both the short and long-term. Learning to be centered, calm and clear always pays high dividends in effective leadership, healthy company culture, and a sustainable path to Prospering More. Just imagine if stressing less is the means, not only to happier ends but to better-than-ever results, right here and right now! Jamie Leno Zimron is a 6th Degree Aikido Black Belt, LPGA Teaching Professional, Somatic & Sports Psychologist, Corporate Speaker, Peak Performance Trainer, and international Citizen’s Diplomat. She provides integrative BodyMindfulness trainings for top results in business, golf, and on all the playing fields of life. A Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Stanford University, Jamie Sensei (Master Instructor) is esteemed worldwide for her dynamic teaching style and unique gifts in guiding people to newfound well-being and success.