Smart About Stress

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September 2010

Smart About Stress
In preparation for an upcoming leadership development delivery focusing on Emotional Intelligence, some research and information has hit me that causes me to think of many of my clients and the people I serve. Most of the people with whom I interact are high performance individuals in positions of leadership. They consistently push themselves as hard as anybody from above ever would. The future is their responsibility and they want to get it done – get it right. It’s what they do.

Planning for the future causes us to occupy the future to some extent. It’s this occupancy that often ushers in worry. Although anxiety has its useful effects by helping us ready ourselves for challenging events, it’s the frequent reoccurrence or chronic part that is the most harmful to us. One’s perception of one’s personal control is a key factor for the leader and executive dealing with anxiety and stress. Yale psychologist Bruce McEwen notes that, “Understandably, health risks seem greatest for those whose jobs are high in strain: having high pressure performance demands while having little or no control over how to get the job done”.

Stress related ill-health is found among a broad spectrum of effects such as: compromised immune function to the point that it can speed the metastasis of cancer, increased viral infections risk, blood clotting leading to heart disease, memory loss, acceleration of the onset of both Type I and II diabetes, triggering or worsening an asthma attack and we won’t use up print space here listing the many gastrointestinal maladies related to stress. At the very least, you would have to agree that stress and anxiety is clearly related to the degree you are medically vulnerable.

But challenge, demands and stress are never going away. For the leader/executive, perhaps part of the answer to successfully managing stress and anxiety is in the area of perception of control. Finding a confidante and others who can assist in defining and identifying where there is true control and where there is no to low opportunity for control can be highly effective in reducing the insidious physical and mental effects of stress.

Telling the truth about your stress and claiming responsibility for managing it well are powerful early steps. Daniel Goleman, founder of Emotional Intelligence suggests that effectively dealing with stress and anxiety for self and others is very much a part of the emotionally intelligent leader. In the next edition of The Edge, we’ll shift from toxic realities to tonic remedies.stop repeating the past and start creating the future.


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