Resilience: How to Overcome the Stress Myth

Are You a Stressed Leader?

Stress is one word we don't like to talk about. I've listened to those in leadership call for it when they say, "I'm so stressed," "I'm stressed out"! But the truth is the something called "stress" is nothing short of an inner, physical feeling of anxiety or "strain." Stress is the external pressure or result derived from the effect of an internal strain.

On page 78 of his memoirs, Dr. Hans Selye confessed that stress was the wrong term. He said he should have called his research findings the "strain syndrome." Hence we must identify the strain so we can best handle and manage this external pressure.

Leaders are sometimes strained by what may be around the corner because their decisions are on the table. Good decisions make good outcomes. Poor decisions make poor outcomes.

As such, emotions suffer. Chaos breeds. Strain develops. Pressure results. Others can sense it. In a high-pressured place you can either manage internal strain by working with your strengths or succumb to reacting like a helpless victim.

You must be cognizant of the emerging signs of pressure if you want to influence others and maintain a healthy and hearty lifestyle.

First let's look at 5 signals you should pay attention to:

  1. Tension, Twitching or Tightening of Muscles
  2. Do you feel your stomach or back tightening up? An eye muscle twitching uncontrollably? Can you feel your shoulders being raised? Do you experience palpitations in your arms, shoulders or neck? Is there an increase in your heart-rate and/or blood pressure?

  • Uncontrolled Thoughts Racing Back and Forth
  • When you can't seem to focus on one thing for a period of time, jumping back and forth from one thought to another, you're possibly on the edge of being pressured.

  • Sudden Change in Appetite
  • This is one surefire indicator of your level of strain such as a sudden surge in appetite or a lack of desire for food.

  • Abrupt nervousness, anger, gloom or guilt.
  • Please do not ignore these obvious pressure indicators.
  • Rapid or Shallow Breathing.
  • Pay attention to your breathing patterns such as quick or little breaths. Sometimes people are inclined to breathe lightly or rapidly when they are under strain.

    Overcoming the Myth of Stress

    Self-management is supreme. Resilience is your ally. Prevent your mind from building bridges or putting up barriers to your inner strength. Consider these 3 pillars of resilience:

    Be Present. Allow your mind to convert concerns into challenges.

    • Own the problem or difficulty. Face it. Acknowledge it. Discover the invaluable reward in understanding the lessons and reasons for your own mistakes, pains, and defeats.
    • Delete the drama of blaming others. Ask yourself, "How can I learn better ways to respond?"
    • List all concerns or difficulties that irritate you. Challenge the concerns by asking and answering these questions: What is so difficult for me? What is the worst thing that can happen? How is my work and life different than it was one year ago? What can I do to change how this affects me? How do I allow myself to accept the things I cannot change?

    Be Proactive. Allow your mind to repel complaining or worrying.

    • Move through the present distressed emotion by honestly listing how you feel about it. Allow yourself the freedom of being imperfect.
    • List your past stimulating experiences, meditate on them and design a plan for increasing activities that nourishes your soul, invigorates your heart and renews your strength.
    • Convince yourself with self-talk: "I am good at what I do; I am powerful; I am in control; I have a thirst and desire to unleash my creativity and weave that passion into my career; I have confidence in my value; I won't settle; I am a resilient leader."

    Be Persevering. Allow your mind to dance to a different beat.

    • Maintain healthy lifestyle habits: Get fit and stay fit. A simple 20-minute brisk walk can boost your energy, relax your emotions and enhance clear and controlled thinking. Do things that are simple, easy and suited to your lifestyle.
    • Simplify your life. Get organized personally and professionally. Prioritize. Never wait until the last hour to prepare for anything.
    • Ask for help and encourage feedback. During my corporate executive days I thought asking for help or feedback was an admittance of ineptness or insecurity. But it helped me to understand my strengths and accept my weaknesses. I learned I would not always like what they said, so I acquired the finesse to remain open-minded. I was less edgy because of it.

    Stress is a myth--a perpetual feeling lodged in your emotional memory. As you competently handle tension and exercise some control over how you respond (not react) to life events, your resilience increases. If you cannot manage the pressures of life and leadership, how are you able to lead?

    Dr. Deana is a lifestyle educator-consultant who teaches leaders the benefits of living with resilience, determination, spirituality and love. She has authored 3 books and is currently directing the anthology, Resilience: Living Life by Design