Good stress, bad stressAUTHOR: Francisco Sáez
Stress is generated due to certain restrictions and demands that act upon us. Restrictions prevent us to do what we desire and demands request strongly our effort and focus into something. In particular, stress occurs when we deal with a restriction or demand of which outcome we perceive to be both important and uncertain.
Stress affects us as individuals and also affects our relationships with others. In an organization, for example, decisions taken under pressure are not usually the best ones. Needless to say, a tense work environment driven by stressed people is not ideal for optimum performance, not to mention the very negative way customers look at this situation—don’t forget that customers deal with people, not companies—. Finally, absenteeism due to stress-related illnesses such as anxiety or depression is growing more and more, and this has a direct impact on costs and productivity of businesses. Management should stop seeing stress as an employee issue, assume it’s an organization problem and try to seek solutions.
Stress is not always a negative thing. It turns out that, up to certain levels, stress can be used positively to get the best of oneself.
A moderate level of stress rises productivity. An excessive level produces the opposite effect. The problem is that everyone reacts differently to the same stimulus. In the same situation, a person can receive an incentive that keeps the adrenaline running, while other gets overwhelmed by such a pressure.
Tim Ferriss, in his book The 4-hour workweek speaks of two types of stress. Distress is a negative stimulus that makes you weaker, less confident and unable to do things. However, eustress (eu- is a Greek prefix meaning “good”), is what enables us to exceed our limits, react positively to any type of threat and get out of our comfort zone to grow and improve.
Depending on its source and level, stress can be reduced in several ways: through better time management, good nutrition, exercise, career plans, job change, meditation and relaxation techniques, attending mental health pros, etc..
Yes, stress affects productivity, but above all, it affects you as an individual. When you notice the first symptoms, start to take measures before the situation becomes serious and complicated to manage.
When the main source of your stress is the pressure created by all commitments you’ve acquired both at work and in your personal life, which demand constantly and unnecessarily your energy and concentration, a personal management methodolgy like GTD can be very helpful. If you consciously capture, review and renegotiate the commitments you have with yourself and with others, then they are, in a sense, done.