Stress is a regular part of everyday life. Taking a page from my fitness coach, let’s talk about stress factors that we, as managers and leaders, can undergo. More importantly, we need to understand the cycles that are needed when stress occurs.
Stress, like a good workout, can actually help us grow, but only if taken in regulated doses with sufficient recovery periods allowed.
There is an interesting lesson from science that we can apply here.
Our bodies (and all living organisms) have a natural state of equilibrium. This is called homeostasis. As an example, your body temperature is usually stable somewhere around 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit. When you get hot or cold, you know it right away. Why? Because an outside factor has changed your homeostasis or your equilibrium.
The physiology behind seeing results at a gym is rooted in the impact on homeostasis. You subject yourself to some exercise regimen or routine, but that workout is for a finite time. While you workout, you are in fact making tiny micro tears in your muscles.
In this graph it is plotted as a momentary dip in equilibrium. Since you have stressed your system, the whole homeostatic balance has been thrown out of whack. So, you need a recovery period to get back in balance. Recovery will include rest, nutrition, hydration, and other elements.
The interesting thing though is that the recovery actually increases the level of your next homeostatic state. Granted, the change may be subtle, but there is a change. Sustained cycles of this process will affect change. In the gym, it is a more sleek body.
Failure to allow the recovery process will erode your state of balance over time. That is, if you habitually workout the same muscle groups without any rest, you are producing counterproductive results. Basically you are hurting yourself more than helping. The following graph shows that cycle.
STRESSES AROUND US
Let’s face it, we all deal with stress; the job, spouse, kids, extended family, finances, health, and other relationships.There are many things that “Stress us out”. People have different tolerances for stress. That means our individual homeostatic state may be different when it comes to stress.
Dealing with stress requires the same disciplines as working on physical fitness. Effort versus recovery is the key. Anyone can endure some stress from time to time. Prolonged, repeated stress without adequate recovery takes us down a destructive path.
The constant exposure to stress without any relief whatsoever can have impacts on performance, our relationships, our health (both physical and mental), and many other areas of our lives.
Knowing about the need to return to a balanced state (homeostasis) is vital to sustainability.
To make the long haul as a manager/leader, you have to build your own endurance for stress while figuring out a protocol for managing the stress around you.
If you learn to deal with stress by thinking of it as a growth moment, much like making yourself go to the gym, you will see growth in your proficiency to lead and your capacity to handle larger assignments.
THE GOOD NEWS
Once you establish an understanding of the concept of homeostatic behavior, you can become better at dealing with stress. At work, managers get promoted why? Usually it is because they have successfully accomplished good work on the level where they are.
Once you are recognized as a “can-do” person, your name will appear more regularly on the short list for advancement.
Effectively managing stress will help get you there. The outcomes are these:
1. Stress is something you overcome. You don’t whine about it, you get it done. Regardless of the pressures putting you in stress, you find ways to deal with it and thrive. I’m not talking about getting yourself into an endless stress cycle (that’s graph #2). I’m describing the healthy growth from one event to another (graph #1).
2. You grow as a manager. Yes, overcoming the former periods of stress will teach you about your work, your personality, and your capacity to endure. By looking at stress as a growth moment (much like pushing that last 10 minutes of a hard workout), you will see progress. Think of it as building your management muscle. Stronger managers survive the long run, so long as that strength was gained through development from a quality cycle of work then recovery.
I am neither a medical doctor nor a licensed therapist. Please do not take these teachings to an extreme. I recognize that severe stress disorders are serious conditions that require professional help. If you are suffering from that sort of condition, please do seek help immediately. I am not making light of those who have encountered tremendously stressful situations (e.g. PTSD) where prolonged exposure is unavoidable. Rather, I am focused on work world situations in conventional business settings.