You Might Be Stressed If...
by Rick Brenner
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 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 makewherever 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? Top Next Issue
Are 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? Send 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.
More articles on Personal, Team, and Organizational Effectiveness
- Become a Tugboat Captain
- If your job responsibilities sometimes require that you tell powerful people that they must do something differently, you could find yourself in danger from time to time. You can learn a lot from tugboat captains.
- At the Sound of the Tone, Hang Up
- When the phone rings, do you drop whatever you're doing to answer it? Do you interrupt face-to-face conversations with live people to respond to the jerk of your cellular leash? Listen to seemingly endless queues of voicemail messages? Here are some reminders of the choices we sometimes forget we have.
- Should I Keep Bailing or Start Plugging the Leaks?
- When we're flooded with problems, and the rowboat is taking on water, we tend to bail with buckets, rather than take time out to plug the leaks. Here are some tips for dealing with floods of problems.
- How Not to Accumulate Junk
- Look around your office. Look around your home. Very likely, some of your belongings are useless and provide neither enjoyment nor cause for contemplation. Where does this stuff come from? Why can't we get rid of it?
- The Ups and Downs of American Handshakes: Part I
- In much of the world, the handshake is a customary business greeting. It seems so simple, but its nuances can send signals we don't intend. Here are some of the details of handshakes in the USA.
See also Personal, Team, and Organizational Effectiveness for more related articles.
I offer email and telephone coaching at both corporate and individual rates.
Contact Rick for details at rbrenner@ChacoCanyon.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
- The Race to the South Pole: Lessons in Risk Management for Leaders
- On 14 December 1911, four men led by Roald Amundsen reached the South Pole. Thirty-five days later, Robert F. Scott and four others followed. Amundsen had won the race to the pole. Amundsen's party returned to base on 26 January 1912. Scott's party perished. As historical drama, why this happened is interesting enough. But to organizational leaders and project managers, the story is fascinating. We'll use the history of this event to explore lessons in risk management and its application to organizational efforts. A fascinating and refreshing look at risk management from the vantage point of history. Read more about this program. Here's an upcoming date for this program:
- Cognitive Biases and Workplace Decision-Making
- For most of us, making decisions is a large part of what we do at work. And we tend to believe that we make our decisions rationally, except possibly when stressed or hurried. That is a mistaken belief — very few of our decisions are purely rational. In this eye-opening yet entertaining program, Rick Brenner guides you through the fascinating world of cognitive biases, and he'll give concrete tips to help you control the influence of cognitive biases. Read more about this program. Here's an upcoming date for this program:
- MITRE, in Bedford, MA: October 21, Monthly Meeting, Boston SPIN.
- The Race to the South Pole: Ten Lessons for Project Managers
- On 14 December 1911, four men led by Roald Amundsen reached the South Pole. Thirty-five days later, Robert F. Scott and four others followed. Amundsen had won the race to the pole. Amundsen's party returned to base on 26 January 1912. Scott's party perished. As historical drama, why this happened is interesting enough, but to project managers, the story is fascinating. Lessons abound. Read more about this program. Here's an upcoming date for this program:
- The Politics of Meetings for People Who Hate Politics
- There's a lot more to running an effective meeting than having the right room, the right equipment, and the right people. With meetings, the whole really is more than the sum of its parts. How the parts interact with each other and with external elements is as important as the parts themselves. And those interactions are the essence of politics for meetings. This program explores techniques for leading meetings that are based on understanding political interactions, and using that knowledge effectively to meet organizational goals. Read more about this program. Here's an upcoming date for this program: