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July 6, 2011 Volume 11, Issue 27
 
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You Might Be Stressed If...

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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
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Forthcoming Issues of Point Lookout

A Celebes Crested MacaqueComing July 8: Ethical Debate at Work: Part I
When we decide issues at work on any basis other than the merits, we elevate the chances of making bad decisions. Here are some guidelines for ethical debate. Available here and by RSS on July 8.
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Outcomes of debates at work sometimes favor one party, not only at the expense of the other or others, but also at the expense of the organization. Here's Part II of a set of guidelines for steering debates toward wise outcomes. Available here and by RSS on July 15.

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