The Many Masks of Stress

Many faces of stressAll of us have stress – we wouldn’t be alive without some form of stress. The trouble starts because most of us don’t know how to manage our stress. According to Stress.org (yes there really is a website devoted to stress), 46% of our workplace stress is related to workload, 28% is due to people issues, 20% work/life balance and 6% job security.

Work-related stress shows up in many ways and often that stress triggers reactions that are harmful to relationships – whether working or personal. My definition of stress is the feeling (whether you are conscious of it or not) that you feel when there is a gap between where you are and where you need to be relative to your responsibilities and goals.

People react differently to stress. Some leaders I’ve worked with have managed to hide stress so well that their direct reports and co-workers don’t realize they are under so much stress. Their ability to appear calm on the outside keeps their team focused. I wonder, though, if it takes a toll personally on them. Are they pretending not to be stressed? Some may be, however, many top managers are able to have a different perspective and able to keep focused on the vision, which makes the stress easier to handle.

Other people show visible signs of stress. Scowling or concerned faces, snapping at co-workers and colleagues, a mistaken comment to a client are all outcomes of being overstressed.

When I led sales for a design firm, my co-workers knew when I was stressed and hyper-focused on solving a problem.  I zoomed through the office with a slightly bent forward posture. They had a nickname for me that I discovered after I left the company – “Kathy italic.” I can laugh about it now because I’m not under the pressure to bring in sales like I was then and appreciate that they cared about me.

That pressure and stress led me to be very task-focused and overlook times I could build on relationships. That was one of my masks of stress – covering up my fear of not meeting goals by focusing on the task at hand of business development.

You can lighten your stress load simply by observing ways that stress plays out in your life. As you notice where you are showing stress reactions, decide what you can do to look at the situation differently or take a different action. Talk to a trusted co-worker or your boss if that is a solid relationship. If your stress is extreme, please contact your Employee Assistance Program or seek help from a counselor or coach who can help you develop strategies to manage your stress.

© Copyright 2014, Kathy Garland

Whether it is mentoring people to lead more effectively, improve their own performance or step into what is next, Kathy Garland is passionate about guiding leaders to achieve business goals and reach their highest potential. 

Today’s leaders are managing diverse teams and projects that require impeccable communication and decision-making skills. The ability to clearly define the vision, goals and purpose of any business initiative that will motivate a team or individual is the key to achieving big results. 

Kathy specializes in coaching and mentoring these high potential, thought leaders to accurately define and communicate the vision, goals and expected results to management, teams and clients.

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