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? rbrenxYRcIYhNslySTECcner@ChacTuXQeoYOZtKMlVzVoCanyon.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:

If only I were a florist?Don't Worry, Anticipate!
Dramatic changes in policy or procedure are often challenging, especially when they have some boneheaded components. But by accepting them, by anticipating what you can, and by applying Pareto's principle, you can usually find a safe path that suits you.
A stormEmailstorming
Most of us get too much email. Some is spam, but even if we figured out how to eliminate spam, most would still agree that we get too much email. What's happening? And what can we do about it?
The Johari WindowAssumptions and the Johari Window: II
The roots of both creative and destructive conflict can often be traced to the differing assumptions of the parties to the conflict. Here's Part II of an essay on surfacing these differences using a tool called the Johari window.
Gen. George S. Patton, Jr., (right) bids farewell to Gen. Bernard Montgomery (left) at the Palermo airportTactics for Asking for Volunteers: II
When we seek volunteers for specific, time-limited tasks, a common approach is just to ask the entire team at a meeting or teleconference. It's simple, but it carries risks. There are alternatives.
Example of an unsecured driver-side floor mat trapping the accelerator pedal in a 2007 Toyota Lexus ES350Indicators of Lock-In: II
When a group of decision makers "locks in" on a choice, they can persist in that course even when others have concluded that the choice is folly. Here's Part II of a set of indicators of lock-in.

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

Forthcoming issues of Point Lookout

A human marionetteComing November 29: Manipulators Beware
When manipulators try to manipulate others, they're attempting to unscrupulously influence their targets to decide or act in some way the manipulators prefer. But some targets manage to outwit their manipulators. Available here and by RSS on November 29.
Desperation at workAnd on December 6: Reframing Revision Resentment: I
From time to time, we're required to revise something previously produced — some copy, remarks, an announcement, code, the Mona Lisa, whatever… When we do, some of us experience frustration, and view the assignment as an onerous chore. Here are some alternative perspectives that might ease the burden. Available here and by RSS on December 6.

Coaching services

I offer email and telephone coaching at both corporate and individual rates. Contact Rick for details at rbrenBqnNspjSGtqhikKYner@ChacxnmTCdVxwFvrrQGhoCanyon.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

Ten Project Management Fallacies: The Power of Avoiding Hazards
Most Ten Project Management Fallaciesof what we know about managing projects is useful and effective, but some of what we know "just ain't so." Identifying the fallacies of project management reduces risk and enhances your ability to complete projects successfully. Even more important, avoiding these traps can demonstrate the value and power of the project management profession in general, and your personal capabilities in particular. In this program we describe ten of these beliefs. There are almost certainly many more, but these ten are a good start. We'll explore the situations where these fallacies are most likely to expose projects to risk, and suggest techniques for avoiding them. Read more about this program. Here's a date for this program:

The Power Affect: How We Express Our Personal Power
Many The Power Affect: How We Express Personal Powerpeople who possess real organizational power have a characteristic demeanor. It's the way they project their presence. I call this the power affect. Some people — call them power pretenders — adopt the power affect well before they attain significant organizational power. Unfortunately for their colleagues, and for their organizations, power pretenders can attain organizational power out of proportion to their merit or abilities. Understanding the power affect is therefore important for anyone who aims to attain power, or anyone who works with power pretenders. Read more about 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
The message of Point Lookout is unique. Help get the message out. Please donate to help keep Point Lookout available for free to everyone.
Technical Debt for Policymakers BlogMy new blog, Technical Debt for Policymakers, offers resources, insights, and conversations of interest to policymakers who are concerned with managing technical debt within their organizations. Get the millstone of technical debt off the neck of your organization!
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.