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? rbrenyvKDnUfzBSpfMtiWner@ChacQwwlrFIpHNcISMszoCanyon.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:

A rocking chairPoverty of Choice by Choice
Sometimes our own desire not to have choices prevents us from finding creative solutions. Life can be simpler (if less rich) when we have no choices to make. Why do we accept the same tired solutions, and how can we tell when we're doing it?
A hearing in the U.S. Senate, in which Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld is responding to questions about appropriations.What Makes a Good Question?
In group discussion or group problem solving, many of us focus on being the first one to provide the answer. The right answer can be good; but often, the right question can be better.
A calm seaAn Emergency Toolkit
You've just had some bad news at work, and you're angry or really upset. Maybe you feel like the target of a vicious insult or the victim of a serious injustice. You have work to do, and you want to respond, but you must first regain your composure. What can you do to calm down and start feeling better?
The male red-capped manakinFinding Work in Tough Times: Communications
Finding work in tough times entails presenting yourself to many people. You'll be conversing, interviewing, writing, presenting, and when you're finally successful, negotiating.
Portrait of Benjamin Lincoln (1733-1810), Major General of the Continental Army during the American Revolutionary WarThe Deck Chairs of the Titanic: Strategy
Much of what we call work is about as effective and relevant as rearranging the deck chairs of the Titanic. We continue our exploration of futile and irrelevant work, this time emphasizing behaviors related to strategy.

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

Forthcoming issues of Point Lookout

An outstanding example of the Utility Pole anti-patternComing June 1: Workplace Anti-Patterns
We find patterns of counter-effective behavior — anti-patterns — in every part of life, including the workplace. Why? What are their features? Available here and by RSS on June 1.
An outstanding example of the Utility Pole anti-patternAnd on June 8: The Utility Pole Anti-Pattern: Part I
Organizational processes can get so complicated that nobody actually knows how they work. If getting something done takes too long, the organization can't lead its markets, or even catch up to the leaders. Why does this happen? Available here and by RSS on June 8.

Coaching services

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

The Race to the South Pole: The Power of Agile Development
On 14The Race to the Pole: An Application of Agile Development 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. Lessons abound. Among the more important lessons are those that demonstrate the power of the agile approach to project management and product development. Read more about this program. Here's an upcoming date for this program:

Managing in Fluid Environments
Most Managing in Fluid Environmentspeople now work in environments that can best be characterized as fluid, because they're subject to continual change. We never know whats coming next. In such environments, managing — teams, projects, groups, departments, or the enterprise — often entails moving from surprise to surprise while somehow staying almost on track. It's a nerve-wracking existence. This program provides numerous tools that help managers who work in fluid environments. Read more about this program. Here's an upcoming date for this program:

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:

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.