By Ross Hutchings, CAE, Executive Director, CSDA
In preparing material as a co-presenter for the workshop on “Overcoming Your Fear of Public Speaking” for CSDA’s upcoming Annual Training Conference & Expo, I came across the part where it talks about public speaking as being stressful, at least for some. It was somewhat ironic as I was very stressed trying to fit in the preparation for this workshop plus material for a second workshop, along with my other responsibilities as your Executive Director, as well as trying to learn the child support profession as quickly as possible. This got me thinking about stress and how people handle it differently.
Through my research for the workshop and from a webinar I heard with Dr. Heidi Hanna, author and Executive Director of the American Institute of Stress, I discovered some interesting attributes from those who handle stress well. When we think of stress, we automatically think of something negative. However, stress was a term created by scientist Han Selye meaning a stimulus for change. Studies have found that good stimulus does not always have a positive effect, nor does bad stimulus always have a negative effect. If we were to approach stress with this attitude – that it is just a stimulus, we could view it a bit more objectively – that stress is actually shedding a light on something that is out of balance and needs to be corrected.
I always use the phrase “30,000 foot level” to mean that we take a broad view of things. When we look at stress from the 30,000 foot level we dissect it and find a way to use it to our benefit. There is a simple three step process for dealing with stress: First, embrace the fact that stress is a warning and by putting it off or pushing it aside, the problem will only get worse as we have not found a solution, only a temporary fix. This allows us to have a more open, collaborative view of the situation and will bring about better problem solving and possible solutions. Second, instead of labeling stress as a negative, view it has a warning that there is too much on our plate and we need to do something to alleviate that. This is where demand outweighs capacity – we need to decrease the demand by eliminating something or moving it to a later time. The third and final step is to look for what needs to be adjusted. It is usually just small adjustments that can alleviate the stress and help us treat it as a challenge, rather than an impossible situation.
Another takeaway from my research was realizing how important taking care of ourselves is to alleviating stress, especially in today’s world. Sometimes we hear people separate their life into business, family, and self, but with the information we have today, we know that they are all interconnected, especially self. If we are not taking care of ourselves, we will not have the focus, energy, or tenacity to manage or give our full attention to the other areas of our life. We all know that taking care of ourselves means good exercise, proper nutrition, and adequate sleep. I am encouraged that the “norm” has shifted to a more life balance as studies have shown that more balanced team members are more productive. This too, has a lot to do with experiencing and dealing with stress.
With technology and information proliferation today, our lives are getting busier with more demands for our time. High achieving individuals are high energy and treat life as a series of sprints rather than a marathon. It is important to focus all the energy and attention for a short period of time, then take a break – recharge if you will. We have all heard the phrase – Work Hard, Play Hard, and studies are showing that those who do just that achieve a more stress-free, balanced life. It is important to learn to “unplug” and have some down time to allow our brains, bodies, and stamina to recoup and recharge.
The hardest part is putting all this knowledge into practice. Perhaps by hearing this repeatedly and discussing it openly, we can all get to a state of less stress and a healthy approach to dealing with the stress we experience. Now… let’s get busy (or is that, unplug)!