JrCasas/Shutterstock.com

Like Many Federal Leaders, You're Probably Stressed Out

When you’re feeling overwhelmed, don’t try to go it alone.

6

During the past week I’ve seen half a dozen people who are deeply important to me whom I hadn’t seen in over a year. During each conversation I found myself recounting how much 2013 sucked because of the stress I experienced. I’ve constructed a woe-is-me story that after telling several times I’ve actually found to be just shy of pathetic. We all have our stories. We all have stress. 

I don’t have to recount the many 2013 events that created stress for federal leaders. Whether the October government shutdown, debt ceiling crisis, sequestration or general loss of confidence in government, it was a rough year and stress was in abundant supply. So, with so many experiencing the same events, why is it that some people managed to navigate 2013 with relative resilience and others (myself included) could barely cope?

Turns out the difference in how we cope has to do with the story we have about stress which in turn has everything to do with how stress affects us (or doesn’t). The logic and science of the story we construct about stress is explored in this TED talk; essentially turning upside down much of the prevailing narrative about what we’ve been told about stress.

The TED talk illustrates scientific evidence advocating social contact and connection when we are stressed. Of course, the truth is I don’t like this idea because when I am stressed I want to burrow down, shut others out, deal with my stuff and re-emerge when I’ve got it all handled. That’s what I tried to do all of 2013:  Now I know why I was miserable last year. The scientific evidence highlights the problem with my 2013 approach to stress: it’s absolutely what NOT to do. Two of the most important things we can do when we are stressed are:

1. Reach out, connect and ask for support. Yikes. Ask for help? If you are like me, you don’t do that. You fancy yourself as the self-appointed fixer of other people’s problems, the one who always manages to save the day, turn people’s lives around, etc. (please make sure to note the sarcasm intended here). I had a real “aha” in summer of 2010 during a workshop, where we were working in pairs to practice effective coaching approaches. I always have others go first with their problems. Amazing how often time runs out and we never get to my problems. I now realize that has been unconsciously by design. No disclosure, no vulnerability and the demon that sentenced me to “looking good” wins again at the risk of allowing others to contribute to me.

Lesson No. 1: The science says when you are stressed, seek connection with others and allow them to contribute to you.

2. Reach out, connect and offer support. You are stressed out and can’t possibly deal with other people’s stuff. You’ve got your own life to deal with, right? Well, the very thing that might help you deal with that stress is to do something for someone else. Turns out the contact and caring/empathy that come with being of service in some way to others may be the perfect antidote to the stress you are feeling.  It is true that whatever is the source of the stress may not go away but the story you have about the stress may shift—merely by focusing on others. And as the science indicates, the story about the stress may actually be the issue that you need to address.

Lesson No. 2: Counterintuitive as it may sound, next time the stress cavalry is after you, don’t run away—find something to do to make a difference to someone else. 

What’s your story about stress? 

(Image via JrCasas/Shutterstock.com)

NEXT STORY: What Brings You Joy as a Leader?

X
This website uses cookies to enhance user experience and to analyze performance and traffic on our website. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners. Learn More / Do Not Sell My Personal Information
Accept Cookies
X
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Do Not Sell My Personal Information

When you visit our website, we store cookies on your browser to collect information. The information collected might relate to you, your preferences or your device, and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to and to provide a more personalized web experience. However, you can choose not to allow certain types of cookies, which may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings according to your preference. You cannot opt-out of our First Party Strictly Necessary Cookies as they are deployed in order to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting the cookie banner and remembering your settings, to log into your account, to redirect you when you log out, etc.). For more information about the First and Third Party Cookies used please follow this link.

Allow All Cookies

Manage Consent Preferences

Strictly Necessary Cookies - Always Active

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data, Targeting & Social Media Cookies

Under the California Consumer Privacy Act, you have the right to opt-out of the sale of your personal information to third parties. These cookies collect information for analytics and to personalize your experience with targeted ads. You may exercise your right to opt out of the sale of personal information by using this toggle switch. If you opt out we will not be able to offer you personalised ads and will not hand over your personal information to any third parties. Additionally, you may contact our legal department for further clarification about your rights as a California consumer by using this Exercise My Rights link

If you have enabled privacy controls on your browser (such as a plugin), we have to take that as a valid request to opt-out. Therefore we would not be able to track your activity through the web. This may affect our ability to personalize ads according to your preferences.

Targeting cookies may be set through our site by our advertising partners. They may be used by those companies to build a profile of your interests and show you relevant adverts on other sites. They do not store directly personal information, but are based on uniquely identifying your browser and internet device. If you do not allow these cookies, you will experience less targeted advertising.

Social media cookies are set by a range of social media services that we have added to the site to enable you to share our content with your friends and networks. They are capable of tracking your browser across other sites and building up a profile of your interests. This may impact the content and messages you see on other websites you visit. If you do not allow these cookies you may not be able to use or see these sharing tools.

If you want to opt out of all of our lead reports and lists, please submit a privacy request at our Do Not Sell page.

Save Settings
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Cookie List

A cookie is a small piece of data (text file) that a website – when visited by a user – asks your browser to store on your device in order to remember information about you, such as your language preference or login information. Those cookies are set by us and called first-party cookies. We also use third-party cookies – which are cookies from a domain different than the domain of the website you are visiting – for our advertising and marketing efforts. More specifically, we use cookies and other tracking technologies for the following purposes:

Strictly Necessary Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Functional Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Performance Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Social Media Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Targeting Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.