Stress: The Silent Saboteur
Posted by Anni M.
We hear it all the time: stress is bad and relaxation is good. But there is nothing more frustrating than being told to relax when you’re stressed out. Nobody wants to feel stressed but it’s difficult to avoid. It’s a built-in response, the body’s way of reacting to pressure. I’ve written about this before, but to summarize: in nature, the stress response is adaptive. Imagine you’re being chased by a tiger. You need to think quickly and you need to run, fast. Your body reacts instantaneously, shutting down your digestion, reproductive functioning, and immune system. It directs all of your energy to your legs, your heart, and your brain. Once you’ve escaped, the stress response abates. Normal function returns to your organs and you relax. In nature, stress keeps you alive. In modern cities, it makes you sick. We’re not running from lions, we’re sitting in endless traffic, pushing ourselves to work 12-hour days, and agonizing over our relationships. For us, stress is a chronic condition.
I used to have a real problem with stress. Every day I sat in my cubicle trying desperately to keep it together. The longer I worked in the dimly lit, dreary little cube, the harder it got to feel calm. Each deadline felt like an albatross around my neck. Each morning when I woke up, I’d have this brief moment of peace before it all came flooding back: that project that wasn’t finished, the new quotas, the list of phone calls I needed to make… Then the anxiety would expand to include other things in my life: car payments, my upcoming family reunion, jury duty, my boyfriend’s annoying habit of biting his nails… In the end, everything around me contributed to my stress. Sitting in traffic was excruciating. Waiting in line for coffee brought me to tears. I was a live wire. Needless to say, my performance at work suffered mightily.
Stress is the silent saboteur. It can undermine your conversations, projects, and goals. If you’re feeling stressed before you go on stage to make a presentation, your audience will know it. You’ll speak too quickly. Your words will be forced and your tone will be shrill. You’ll be unfocused and confused, racing towards an imaginary finish line that never arrives.
I finally started feeling better once I recognized the problem for what it was. I needed to prioritize my health before I could start making progress at work. My muscles were so tense I threw my back out by opening my car door! For me, meditation, yoga, and jogging made a huge difference in my overall health and vastly improved my outlook. Positive thinking, eating healthy food, and taking a few days off all helped me to put my life in perspective. I needed to find a balance. Tomorrow I’ll explore tips and tricks for reducing stress to improve performance. Stay tuned.
As a Creative Communications Strategist, Victoria is known for her electrifying Keynote Performances™ and the transformational workshops and coaching sessions she creates for elite executives, high performing teams, thought leaders and entrepreneurs..