Stressed? You’ve got 3 choices

Today I’ve conducted 5 coaching sessions with managers and there is a pattern running through all of them. A feeling of being overwhelmed, stressed and lacking any control over their own destiny. This isn’t surprising given that the managers are from various companies going through redundancies, re-organisations and other major changes.  However, just because it is a normal response to imposed change it doesn’t mean we have to feel helpless. The challenge is to focus on the parts that are within our control rather than waste precious time and energy on things outside it.

Stress happens when there is a mismatch between the demands being placed on us and our perceived resources to meet those demands. When we are not challenged enough we are in danger of rust out (I don’t see as much of that these days) and when the demands are greater than our perceived resources we risk burn out.

According to Ross and Altmaier in “Intervention in Occupational Stress” stress management is a decision making process and there are only 3 choices to make. We can:

Alter it – by changing something in how we approach our work, e.g. problem solving, clearer communication, better planning.

Avoid it – by removing ourselves from the situation or not getting into it in the first place, e.g. walking away, having clear boundaries, saying no, or even leaving the organisation.

Accept it – by building our resilience to it, e.g. self care, support systems, identifying goals and values, and by changing our unhelpful beliefs and perceptions about the situation or ourselves.

Which choices are you making? They may not be ideal, but they are choices, and they are yours.

6 Responses to Stressed? You’ve got 3 choices

  • Hi im a self employed artist and work weekends to make ends meet, I have been getting stressed of lately and this greatly affects my work when putting brush to canvass, I have read the above statement and will positively amend my working day to include fresh air,dog walk etc so I feel balanced and ready to sit in a room and paint for hours.
    Regards James

  • Stress is the hardest thing for people that are non-confrontational to begin with. I’ve personally been working on embracing my stress and drawing positive things out of it. Great post!

  • Hi Sharon

    Thanks for stopping by and taking the time to comment and also spread the word on Twitter and Facebook too. I really appreciate that.

    I agree that choosing which option is also a challenge and would very much depend on the individual and their unique situation. However, realising there are choices and that they are within our control can create the most significant shifts even to the extent that which response a person chooses is less important than taking ownership, making conscious decisions and getting into action.

    What do you think?

  • Julie, I just had to share this on Facebook and Twitter because I felt it was so concise. It really does come down to those three options. Perhaps it looks oversimplified, but it is that easy! I feel what gets many of us stuck is when we don’t know which option to choose. The act of choosing how we will handle our stress leads to some immediate relief to the situation. I’m so grateful you posted this one!

  • Thanks for contributing Nigel. I especially value your description of the ripple effect of stress as it impacts the rest of the business. Your comment about seeking external support took me back 12 years to when I was working as an Independent Organisational Stress Consultant. The biggest challenge being to help people lift there heads out of the mire long enough to realise that they were in a viscous circle and needed to do something different in order to break it. The organisations that needed the help most, were often the one’s that were too stressed to recognise it.

  • Great post Julie and bang on the money! I too have seen too much of an imbalance of late in this regard where small business owners in particular are struggling to swim against a tide of stress brought about by the everyday challenges they are facing. Unfortunately in a number of instances this is permeating the rest of a business too, sapping energy, confidence and desire from the within, propelling an organisation on something of a downward spiral.

    For me personally I tend to gravitate towards Alter simply because it’s my own natural leaning and the premise of my own business where I focus on enabling positive change. That said, there is absolutely a time and a place for Avoid and Accept, the challenge of course being to know what to do when which can also have a reinforcing effect on the initial stress. I’d go as far as to say that the solution invariably lies in simply breaking the cycle at whatever point by whichever approach is most appropriate…and if an individual or indeed an organisation needs an external stimulus to help affect that, it’s absolutely not a sign of weakness but one of maturity in recognising the need for change, and one of desire in wanting to protect what has already been created.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *