The Good, The Bad and The Ugly, When It Comes To Stress.
Katie Maycock | Anxiety and Digestive Health Specialist
There are times when stress can benefit you in the workplace. There are times when stress will limit you. There are times when stress will destroy you.
I do a lot of corporate talks. There is always a divide whether stress is good or bad for you.
Here’s what I know.
I’m absolutely a believer that stress can play a role in business. For instance, attending to customer needs and driving towards goals and targets.
It can also feel great. It can drive motivation for a lot of people. It plays a role in concentration and memory.
If stress is managed correctly, it can be used as a tool!
1) Increasing How Alert You Are.
True story. When you are in times of acute stress, you are more alert. Now, why is this important? Because when you are more alert, you are able to focus and concentration at higher levels. This alertness allows you to function at your mental peak.
2) Increasing Mental Performance.
Bear with me on this one.
I want you to think back to a time where you were studying for an exam or test. A time when you had to hit a target or deadline. That stress increases how alert you are, which increases your mental performance. Mental performance is incredibly important for success. Being able to think clearly and accurately is going to lead to more success.
3) Increase In Energy
Stress increases your energy! This increase in energy can help you work harder, faster and longer. Becoming more productive.
However, sometimes we need that extra energy to be able to achieve our goals and targets.
Not only can it help with increasing energy and endurance at work, but it can also help with our physical activity. This is because of the adrenaline and cortisol that is produced by during stress.
Note: For all you high achievers and Type A Professionals, continue reading. This isn’t permission to keep burning the candle at both ends.
4) Increase Memory
I know, I know, I have harped on (and will mention later in this blog) how stress limits memory.
However, there are times when stress can increase memory. This can be hypothesised due to an increase in alertness and becoming more aware. Or even if the acute stress is changing the development of brain cells.
However, recent studies have been able to show an increase in memory after a period of acute stress.
Being able to tap into “good” stress and harnessing it, will definitely help you become successful.
However, there is definitely a dark side to it.
Stress is not a limitless pool you can use to drive you forward every day. Like any resource, it has to be used appropriately. Otherwise, it will hinder you.
Stress increases a sense of urgency. If used correctly, it can be a very beneficial tool.
Put into context, if one of your clients or customers has an issue, clearly, time is of the essence. A sense of urgency can lead to a speedy resolution. Which is important!
However, if used incorrectly, it will really limit your success.
1) Making Appropriate Decisions
We can all agree, making decisions is a part of everyday life, not just running a business.
Making appropriate and clearly thought out decisions, just as important. Especially when you are running a business. It means you can solve problems quickly. You prevent the possibility of mistakes and it realistically it can save time in the long run.
If you’re stressed or have a feeling of a sense of urgency, this can be difficult. You’re more likely to make to rash and knee jerk decisions. Which may lead more hassle in the long run.
Otherwise, if you have been stressed for a while and your stress has turned into anxiety, it could potentially leave you unable to make a decision at all.
Not making a decision is just as bad (if not worse) than making a rash decision.
Either way, you’re limiting yourself
2) Making Frequent Mistakes
A lot of the time, when we are stressed, we are rushing. Whether that’s reading an email, going to a meeting or simple having a call with someone.
If we feel rushed, we are more than likely going to miss details.
How many times have you skim read or not proofread an email and sent it realising that there are typos? Or sent an email to the wrong person?
Yeah, mistakes are never fun.
Usually when we are stress and rushing our attention to detail is limited.
There is a simple solution though.
Slow down, read that email properly, pay attention in meetings and remain focused. Don’t think about the twenty things you need to do. Stay in the moment.
Making mistakes is wasting your time. It could also be wasting your customers or clients time.
It also reduces credibility.
3) Damaging Relationships
I want to put this into context.
Think about a time when you felt as though someone hadn’t listened to you.
A time when someone didn’t hear you and responded inappropriately.
How did it make you feel? Did you feel heard? Did you feel important?
I’m going to take a stab in the dark and say no.
When clients, customers, manager or employees feel that way, they aren’t going to stick around.
If employees don’t feel heard, they will feel under-valued and leave.
If your manager feels as though you can take direction or listen, you may miss out on growth within that company.
If your customer or clients don’t feel heard they will take their business elsewhere.
There is absolutely an ugly side to stress.
Stress is damaging to the body. It doesn’t just limit you in regards to success, it also limits you physically.
Three significant ways it is damaging you:
1) Increasing Your Likelihood Of Burnout
I have spoken about this at lengths. However, it really does increase your likelihood of burning out.
For a lot of people who have burnt out, a lot of them will say it started off as a positive. Which then turned into a very detrimental negative.
Burnout isn’t easy to overcome. It takes time, its something that changes the way you work and rest.
Preventing burnout is the best way. Seriously, don’t think it can’t happen to you. Waiting until you drop down from burnout is not very practical.
2) Increasing Digestive Issues
Yes, you are increasing the likelihood of developing IBS, allergies, intolerances or even worse an auto-immune disease.
Having prolonged stress has an immense effect on the way the human body digests food. It limits the blood flow to the digest tract, reducing the way we absorb nutrients and increasing inflammation in the gut.
Fun fact: 70-80% of your immunity is linked to your gut.
3) Increasing The Likelihood Of Lifestyle Disease
Such as diabetes, high cholesterol, cardiovascular disease, obesity and the list goes on.
Stress increases inflammation throughout the body, which then increases the likelihood of disease.
Stress can be a vicious cycle on health, if not managed.
What can you do?
The first step is to admit that you are in fact stressed. A lot of people don’t realize they’re stressed. Or they perceive stress in a different way that leaves them living in denial. Never a good place to be.
The second step, look at how you work. Do you constantly work under a sense of urgency or agitation? Ask yourself, is this a good time to have a sense of urgency? Become more aware of appropriate and inappropriate times to work from that space. For instance, skim reading an email or rushing through a call to get to the next task, may not be the right time to have a sense of urgency.
The third step, start looking for tools and techniques that you can implement every day. If meditation doesn’t feel right, don’t force it. Go to the gym instead, go for a walk. Even taking a moment to step outside is beneficial.
Not all tools and techniques are created equally. Find what works for you and utilise them.
If you want to reach out and see how I can help you or your organisation, reach out.