We experience stress as a result of responding to one or more stressors.
A stressor is a person, thing or situation that we perceive to be a threat to our physical and emotional well-being.
Every moment of the day, our brain is busy scanning the environment for stressors.
“Is this a threat or a reward?” is the first question our brain asks of everything we encounter – each person we meet, each email we read, each conversation we have. Depending on the answer, it triggers the appropriate behavior in us. Either we take steps to defend ourselves from the “threat,” or we embrace the “reward” with delight.
As a result of reacting to one or more stressors we experience stress. By stress, I mean the cocktail of physical, cognitive and behavioural symptoms we experience. Some stress is unavoidable. At moderate levels, it helps us feel awake and alive, sharpening our brain's motivation and focusing our attention to enable us to rise to challenges and perform under pressure.
The intensity of the stress we experience is referred to as our ‘stress level’ and can range from negligible to extreme. We experience some level of stress throughout the day, and carry it with us from day to day. That means that when we go to work we take our existing level of stress with us.
We may arrive at work with a high stress level having been exposed to one of the life events that top the list of the Holmes-Rahe "Life Stress Inventory", (Social Readjustment Rating Scale aka. "SRRS"). Events such as death of a partner/family member, divorce, illness, financial difficulties, a sick child.
Or perhaps we arrive at work with a moderate stress level due to an accumulation of ‘daily hassles'. Daily hassles being those: ‘irritating, frustrating, distressing demands that to some degree characterise everyday transactions with the environment’ (Kanner 1981) – i.e. they are the straw that broke the camel’s back!
Our stress level will impact on how well we perform during the day and how productive we are.
Once at work our stress level may be exacerbated by any change, large or small, that we experience. For instance we may be given a new task or project, or we’re allocated a new manager, or we’re told the organisation is going to be restructured and we may face redundancy.
We humans dislike change as it creates uncertainty, and in that uncertainty there may be a potential threat to our physical and emotional well-being.
Our perception of a stressor is unique to each of us. For instance, if you and I are given a new joint task to complete, I may already be experiencing stress and so perceive the new task as a threat (triggering even more stress), while you may simply perceive it as a challenge and so experience a sense of excitement.
How do we protect our psychological well-being?
As individuals, to stay healthy and perform at our best we need to learn how to manage the daily hassles, the excessive pressure, and the stressors. We also need to learn how to reduce our stress level to a healthy and productive one. Working with a stress management coach, like me, can help you develop these life skills.
To find out more about how you can learn to reduce and manage your stress level, and change the way you respond to workplace stressors, just schedule a complimentary 30 minute consultation with me. It's that easy.
Until next week ....
PS. Don't forget to register for the 2016 NLP Mindfest at which I'm excited to be one of the 14 expert presenters. You can learn more about this FREE on-line event here.
Tony Yuile is hired by people seeking help to perform at their best in one or more areas of their lives. He is a Personal Performance Coach & hypnosis professional based in Wellington NZ, where he specialises in helping people perform under pressure, reduce anxiety and manage stress. Tony’s solution focused approach to coaching uses a range of techniques drawn from the fields of co-active coaching, hypnosis and neuro-linguistic programming (NLP). Contact Tony today to discuss how he can help you, or if you think Tony could help someone you know, you might like to encourage them to get in touch with him.
This article contains the personal views and opinions of the author, which may change over time. It is intended to be for information only and does not constitute medical advice. For medical and health advice, always consult a qualified medical professional.