I spend a lot of time helping my clients deal with stress and thought it would be good to write a short article about the issue of useful vs not-useful stress, so here goes!
What exactly is “good” stress?
The good sort of stress is the stress which enables us to perform as our best selves. It’s the balance of just enough pressure and support which means the difference between success and non-success – some people call it being “in the flow”.
I’m sure you can think of times when you’ve felt that you can rule the world and still make it home in time for tea? And don’t those times feel absolutely brilliant?!
What about “bad” stress then and how do we know the difference? How do we know we are pushing ourselves enough, too much or not enough?
Well, it’s been suggested that we can make more mistakes when we have a stress imbalance than if we are in that magical “flow zone”. The difference between the type of mistakes we make when we don’t have enough stress compared to when we have too much is that, in the former case, those mistakes are likely to be ones of OMISSION whereas, in the latter, they are likely to be ones of COMMISSION.
For example, you might find you’ve forgotten to submit an assignment on time or you’ve missed an important element out of it. Here you might want to think about making yourselves a schedule with a tight deadline and a consequence if you fail to hit it.
An instance where too much stress may be an issue might be where you’ve accidentally copied the wrong person into an email and the world and his wife finds out that you voted Monster Raving Looney Party in the last election!
Are you trying to do too many things at once?
Are you having an adverse reaction to pressure at the moment?
What steps can you take to manage that pressure?
Identify whether better sleep, improved nutrition, more water, head-management, more exercise or something else will help support you through that blip in stressload.
Identify the things you can control and do something about them. Learn to let go of the things you can’t control e.g. the weather, traffic, other people
The key thing is to catch yourself when things aren’t going well on the stress-balance front and, as well as learning from them for future reference, also question what might be at the root of them and then doing something about it if you can.