Point Lookout: a free weekly publication of Chaco Canyon Consulting
Volume 11, Issue 27;   July 6, 2011: You Might Be Stressed If...

You Might Be Stressed If...

by

A little stress once in a while keeps us sharp, but chronic intense stress shortens lives. Stress can build gradually, out of our awareness. Here are some indicators of chronic intense stress.
Symptoms of Stage 5 heat stress in cattle

Symptoms of Stage 5 heat stress in cattle include open-mouthed breathing with tongue protruding, and possible drooling. In Stage 6, the most intense, the animal's life is in danger. Certainly it is possible to create a severity ladder for the behavioral indicators of chronic workplace stress. It would be most useful for diagnosing the health of the working environment. Photo courtesy U.S. Department of Agriculture Agricultural Research Service.

When working conditions degrade gradually enough, we tolerate them even though they're intolerable. The cost is chronic high-intensity stress. We become short with each other. We hurt each other. Productivity falls. Quality degrades. Worst of all, we take our troubles home, which can spread the misery and which limits our ability to recharge and repair.

To regain control, we must recognize the indicators of chronic high-intensity stress. Here's a little catalog.

You might be stressed if…

  • …someone asks you for comfort about being stressed, and you blow your top.
  • …you add to your to-do list stuff you've already done, just for that feeling of accomplishment when you check it off.
  • …you suddenly realize that although your desk is usually neat, it's been an unholy mess for three weeks and you never noticed.
  • …you suddenly realize that although you usually don't mind a messy desk, you now feel an overwhelming compulsion to clean it up.
  • …you suddenly realize that 40% of what you've eaten today contains some form of chocolate.
  • …you no longer feel the effects of consuming two espressos before 8 AM.
  • …you take a ten-minute break to relax, but after minute three, all you can think about is whatever you were taking a break from.
  • …sleep mostly consists of waiting to get up until some hour that you think most people would consider reasonable.
  • …you believe that even if you nod off in a meeting, nobody notices, because you do it cleverly.
  • …things that used to be only mildly annoying are now unbearable.
  • …things that used to be unbearable are only mildly annoying compared to the really idiotic stuff that's happening now.
  • …everyone around you seems totally stressed, but you think you're absolutely fine.
  • …everyone around you seems calm, but you think it's because they haven't yet grasped the reality of the situation.
  • …you thought you were decisive before, but now you're making decisions before you realize you've made them.
  • …when you have to decide something, all you can do is dither about it endlessly.
  • …you feel an irresistible urge to make decisions that aren't yours to make.
  • …after you arrive You might be stressed if
    you feel an irresistible
    urge to make decisions
    that aren't yours to make
    wherever you were going, you can't remember why you went there.
  • …even though you're not a VIP, the conference room goes all quiet the moment you enter.
  • …it isn't just that you couldn't keep the thread of what she was saying, it's that you couldn't keep the thread of what you were thinking.
  • …you bite someone's head off over something they had nothing to do with.
  • …two hours late, you realize you missed lunch.
  • …two hours to go, and all you can think about is lunch.
  • ..you've finally figured out how the whole thing fits into a nice, neat pattern.
  • …you believe that you could actually save the company if only they would do it your way.

How many of these indicators seem familiar to you? Go to top Top  Next issue: Power, Authority, and Influence: A Systems View  Next Issue

52 Tips for Leaders of Project-Oriented OrganizationsAre your projects always (or almost always) late and over budget? Are your project teams plagued by turnover, burnout, and high defect rates? Turn your culture around. Read 52 Tips for Leaders of Project-Oriented Organizations, filled with tips and techniques for organizational leaders. Order Now!

Your comments are welcome

Would you like to see your comments posted here? rbrenyafrSIShBZCcRJbjner@ChackuOWCtdkIzWWQovOoCanyon.comSend me your comments by email, or by Web form.

About Point Lookout

Thank you for reading this article. I hope you enjoyed it and found it useful, and that you'll consider recommending it to a friend.

Point Lookout is a free weekly email newsletter. Browse the archive of past issues. Subscribe for free.

Support Point Lookout by joining the Friends of Point Lookout, as an individual or as an organization.

Do you face a complex interpersonal situation? Send it in, anonymously if you like, and I'll give you my two cents.

Related articles

More articles on Personal, Team, and Organizational Effectiveness:

An early Swedish dial phone ca. 1876Email Antics: Part I
Nearly everyone I know complains that email is a time waster. Yet much of the problem results from our own actions. If you're looking around for some New Year's resolutions to make, here are some ideas, in this Part I of a little catalog of things we do that help waste our time.
DeadlockDealing with Deadlock
At times it seems that nothing works. Whenever we try to get moving, we encounter obstacles. If we try to go around them, we find more obstacles. How do we get stuck? And how can we get unstuck?
The crash of American Airlines Flight 191 in 1979Accepting Reality
Those with organizational power can sometimes forget that their power is limited to the organization. Achieving high levels of organizational and personal performance requires a clear sense of those limits.
A laptop with password stickiesWhy We Don't Care Anymore
As a consultant and coach I hear about what people hate about their jobs. Here's some of it. It might help you appreciate your job.
Navy vs. Marine Corps tug of war in Vera Cruz, Mexico ca. 1910-1915Holding Back: Part I
When members of teams or groups hold back their efforts toward achieving group goals, schedule and budget problems can arise, along with frustration and destructive intra-group conflict. What causes this behavior?

See also Personal, Team, and Organizational Effectiveness for more related articles.

Forthcoming issues of Point Lookout

Cherry blossoms, some open some closedComing August 31: Contributions, Open and Closed
We can classify contributions to discussions according to the likelihood that they stimulate new thought. The more open they are, the more they stimulate new thought. How can we encourage open contributions? Available here and by RSS on August 31.
A forest fireAnd on September 7: Cultural Indicators of Political Risk
Because of fire risk, hiking in dry forests during dry seasons can be dangerous. In the forest, we stay safe from fire if we attend to the indicators of fire risk. In the workplace, do you know the indicators of political risk? Available here and by RSS on September 7.

Coaching services

I offer email and telephone coaching at both corporate and individual rates. Contact Rick for details at rbrenqFpxsMFHmRHhhesoner@ChacgTQtSuPLxVhSlwFuoCanyon.com or (617) 491-6289, or toll-free in the continental US at (866) 378-5470.

Get the ebook!

Past issues of Point Lookout are available in six ebooks:

Reprinting this article

Are you a writer, editor or publisher on deadline? Are you looking for an article that will get people talking and get compliments flying your way? You can have 500 words in your inbox in one hour. License any article from this Web site. More info

Public seminars

Sudoku Solutions, INK: A Simulation of a Project-Oriented Organization
In thCross-Functional Teams: How Organizations Actually Workis workshop, we simulate a company that solves Sudoku puzzles for its customers. Each puzzle is a project, solved by a project team led by a project manager. Team members hail from different parts of the organization, such as QA or the Department of Threes. Puzzles have different values, and the company must strive to meet revenue goals. The metaphor is uncanny. Lessons abound. Read more about this program. Here's an upcoming date for this program:

Changing How We Change: The Essence of Agility
MasteChanging How We Change: The Essence of Agilityry of the ability to adapt to unpredictable and changing circumstances is one way of understanding the success of Agile methodologies for product development. Applying the principles of Change Mastery, we can provide the analogous benefits in a larger arena. By exploring strategies and tactics for enhancing both the resilience and adaptability of projects and portfolios, we show why agile methodologies are so powerful, and how to extend them beyond product development to efforts of all kinds. Read more about this program. Here's an upcoming date for this program:

Leading Virtual Meetings for Real Results
LeadiLeading Virtual Meetings for Real Resultsng or participating in virtual meetings — teleconferences, Web conferences, video conferences, and more — is challenging. Miscommunications, misunderstandings, distractions, politics, and interpersonal conflict all thrive in the typical environment of the virtual team. We'll inventory the challenges virtual meeting leaders and participants face, and provide tools for anticipating and addressing them. The focus of this program is practical — attendees will learn concrete techniques for preventing and dealing with the problems that arise in virtual meetings. Read more about this program. Here's an upcoming date for this program:

Creating High Performance Virtual Teams
Many Creating High Performance Virtual Teamspeople experience virtual teams as awkward, slow, and sometimes frustrating. Even when most team members hail from the same nation or culture, and even when they all speak the same language, geographic dispersion or the presence of employees from multiple enterprises is often enough to exclude all possibility of high performance. The problem is that we lead, manage, and support virtual teams in ways that are too much like the way we lead, manage, and support co-located teams. In this program, Rick Brenner shows you how to change your approach to leading, managing, and supporting virtual teams to achieve high performance using Simons' Four Spans model of high performance. Read more about this program. Here's an upcoming date for this program:

Follow Rick

Send email or subscribe to one of my newsletters Follow me at LinkedIn Follow me at Twitter, or share a tweet Follow me at Google+ or share a post Subscribe to RSS feeds Subscribe to RSS feeds
Please donate!The message of Point Lookout is unique. Help get the message out. Please donate to help keep Point Lookout available for free to everyone.
How to Spot a Troubled Project Before the Trouble StartsLearn how to spot troubled projects before they get out of control.
Go For It: Sometimes It's Easier If You RunBad boss, long commute, troubling ethical questions, hateful colleague? Learn what we can do when we love the work but not the job.
303 Tips for Virtual and Global TeamsLearn how to make your virtual global team sing.
101 Tips for Managing ChangeAre you managing a change effort that faces rampant cynicism, passive non-cooperation, or maybe even outright revolt?
101 Tips for Effective MeetingsLearn how to make meetings more productive — and more rare.
Exchange your "personal trade secrets" — the tips, tricks and techniques that make you an ace — with other aces, anonymously. Visit the Library of Personal Trade Secrets.