Consultation : How To Spot Bad Stress

I had quiet moment at work yesterday and suddenly saw how I was feeling. I had general aches and pains, my heart was racing, and I felt jumpy. I don’t often have quiet moments like this, but realised I have underlying stress. My work isn’t that difficult so I am not sure what is causing it, but I don’t like it and want to get rid of it.

First you should be congratulated for recognising what is happening to you. Often people don’t realise they are stressed and because they are getting an adrenalin buzz they think things are okay.
Stress is natural part of life, but there is good stress and bad stress. For example, if herd of marauding elephants were to come charging at you then you would hopefully move very quickly to get out of their way. This is good stress. It is short lived and energises you to be safe.
Bad stress is where this happens for much longer period and there is no obvious positive outcome – as in saving yourself from being trampled. Long-term stress leads inevitably to illness. It can affect the way you think, leading to depression. It can affect you physically, leading to loss of sleep, tiredness, and heart and stomach troubles. It can also lead to relationship problems with increased arguments and overreactions, which in turn can seriously impact your home and work life.
So the first thing to do in dealing with stress is to recognise you are experiencing bad stress – as you have done. You then know you are on burning platform and are motivated to do something.
The next step is to identify what is causing the stress. You may be able to do this yourself, but often it is helpful to talk it through with close friend or relative who can help you focus.
There are many causes of stress. It might be that you have manager who is stressing you. This is one of the main reasons people leave their jobs. It may be family situation, for example, with one of your children or partner. It may be that someone close to you has died or is ill. Or it may be simply that you have become addicted to the adrenalin rush from stress and are creating the stress yourself. This is not uncommon.
So seek out someone you trust and can talk to and take it from there. Certainly eight hours of sleep, balanced diet, exercise, and time out will help you as well.

As part of my personal development plan I want to build my leadership skills. Can you advise if there are any key areas to focus on?

Yes there are some common areas that you can target to build your leadership skills. Good leadership is about being able to identify where the team, or organisation, needs to be heading.
The first area to focus on is your ability to build strategic vision that you can communicate easily. This can often be best done through drawing picture or diagram or even turning your vision into short story. It is crucial element of leadership. By creating vision that can be shared then people can “get it” and once this has happened they are empowered and can go for the vision themselves. This is true leadership.
A second area to develop is your self awareness. Developing this will result in better decision making because you are basing this on reality. Secondly, you are more likely to keep learning and developing as you are able to see things as they really are.
Another leadership capability to develop is your ability to be comfortable with ambiguity. Life is not neat and tidy. It is often messy and uncoordinated. good leader is able to avoid being caught up in this and will focus on what can be achieved, rather than in trying to change the world to fit their plan.
Another leadership attribute to develop is to have high expectations of yourself and others. These must be reasonable otherwise you will drive yourself and others mad. It does, however, create “pull” which draws the team together and delivers high levels of achievement.
Finally, check out how persistent you are. Positive persistence has been identified by many of today’s management researchers as key attribute of successful leader. That is they don’t insist on having their own way even though they can see what needs to happen. Equally they don’t give in and keep raising what is needed so that in the end people see this and get in behind it. It can take bit longer, but the result is time saving and better outcome.
Overall you have to earn the right to be leader and developing these capabilities will help. M

Kevin Gaunt, FNZIM, FAIM, is CEO of NZIM Auckland and has been senior executive with, and consultant to, some of New Zealand’s largest companies.

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