Stress itself isn’t an illness. It’s a state we go into in response to increased pressure – with physical, emotional and behavioural consequences. But, if stress goes on for too long, it puts us at increased risk of mental health problems such as anxiety and depression and even physical illnesses including heart disease. (To understand more about your personal response to stress click here to register for a copy of our free Stress Signature template).
So, why is it that sometimes pressure can be motivating, but at other times it can lead us to feeling overwhelmed and, you guessed it, stressed out…?
Typically, the bad kind of stress kicks in when the pressure or demands we face outstrip the resources we have. We simply don’t have enough resources to cope. We can quickly feel fatigued and in the longer-term, burned-out with cynical thoughts, a loss of confidence and reduced productivity.
Conversely when we feel that we have some control over the situation and are more suitably resourced, the increased pressure can actually help us feel energised and in a state of ‘eustress’ (eu– coming from the Greek meaning ‘good’). In this state we can achieve a level where we are functioning well and enjoying it!
Take a moment and think about the resources you
draw on when you’re facing pressure
This Performance Triangle is a helpful way of classifying our resources:
Structure based – these include the functional systems we have such as our processes and IT systems at work. We may or may not have much direct or immediate control over these resources.
Skillset based – these are the abilities we possess that we need for our role eg. our technical knowledge enables us to answer a customer’s question. We have some control over our skillset, but it can take longer to work on, and sometimes we need to refresh or learn new skills.
Mindset based – this represents our attitude and focus, and is key.
Embracing a constructive mindset is fundamental to being able to access and apply all of our resources- whether they are structure or skillset based.
When we feel stressed the most important resource we have is our mindset.
- Even though you can’t always change much about the stressor itself, you can choose how you respond to it.
- Choosing a strategy of acceptance can free up mental space to focus on the things you actually can influence and change, as opposed to worrying over the things you can’t.
- At times of stress we need to reach out for our resilience strategies so we can access our most constructive mindset.