When Stress Takes Over
David Freund, Chief Leadership Officer

I have recently found myself battling stress regularly. I know that a little stress is a good thing—some researchers even believe that stress can boost your immune system. I even read that some stress can improve how your heart works and can protect your body from infection. Stress also helps us achieve goals and motivates us to take on challenges. That’s not the stress I am talking about. I’m talking about the high-anxiety, mood-altering, and in my case, migraine-inducing stress. Clearly the unhealthy kind of stress. It came to a climax a week ago when I battled a migraine that returned three times in the same day. It took that event to get me to slow down, listen to my body, and reflect. What was happening to me? What was causing all the stress? Here is what my reflection showed me.

For the entire month of August, I was running full speed. Out of the office working with members well into the evening at times. Anytime someone called and asked if I could meet with them my reply was the same, “Sure thing. When would you like to meet?” My work in the office fell behind so weekends and evenings became the time to catch up. Soon, minor issues like a PowerPoint not working (because we upgraded our system) pushed me over the edge. I was miserable, and nobody wanted to be around me. So what did I learn and what did I do about it?

My stress was caused by the realization that I was falling behind. The more I fell behind, the more I let people down. The more I felt I was letting people down, the higher my stress level became. I also realized I was procrastinating on some minor tasks I didn’t enjoy so the list of “things to do” just got longer and longer. You guessed it, more stress. Alas, the mega migraine day woke me up and I had to make a change.

Once I discovered the cause of my stress, I had to make the change. Realizing that I can’t reschedule the entire month, I looked at what I could change. I immediately decided to get the list of annoying, unpleasant tasks off my plate. That’s right; it was time to eat some ugly frogs and eat them I did. It was amazing how much better I felt as one by one the little amphibians were removed from my plate. The next step was to intentionally add space into my calendar going forward. I blocked out a day here and there to give me some breathing room. I even scheduled some vacation time. It didn’t happen overnight, but little by little the stress was reduced.

What was the lesson from all this? Listen to your body. Reflect on your stress level. Is it at a healthy level that motivates and inspires you to act, or is it starting to have adverse effects on your life? Are you trying to haul two tons of fertilizer in a one-ton truck? If you do, you and others will get covered in, you guessed it, “fertilizer.” If this post sounds familiar to you, please join Marisa and me for Episode 120 of The Next Page podcast as we discuss how to become more aware of our stress levels and what we can do about it.

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