Look out for the hero at work - they may be close by...
Whatever work we choose to do there will be times when we feel stressed, which is OK; but it's not OK if our stress starts to become chronic. This is when we need to consider ways of how we can protect ourselves from stress escalating. Perhaps we have focused too much on our work to the exclusion of other areas in our lives. Things have got out of balance. We seem to have lost our inner self. The boundary between our personal and professional lives becomes hard to distinguish. When this occurs it's easy to think we are failing. If we have come to regard ourselves as competent, professional, successful people too much stress leave us feeling bewildered. We may discover that the workplace has no room for either our professional or personal selves. So in order to 'fit in' we do whatever is required of us.
This cycle can risk further stress if our inner selves are increasingly taken over by our external world. Perhaps we feel we need to behave - put on a front - as to how we think the organisation wants us to behave. If we feel under pressure to behave like those who have been successful (in our eyes) then we may end up less than true to ourselves. This feeling of 'disconnect' can make it difficult for others to be around us.
Unfortunately some 'leaders' are not troubled by self-doubt - which in itself suggests a lack of insight; others perceive themselves as 'superheroes' and tend to mix with people in their own image. They then risk becoming disconnected from reality.
Yet all of us, I believe, has something to gain from an early diagnosis of stress. If we begin to experience chronic stress in the workplace, it is often an indication that we need to find a good role model who has a way of leading with integrity and compassion. These are the people to watch and to learn from. It is worth taking time to quietly observe how such individuals manage their own stress. It can be a revelation. It can also provide us with simple techniques which can help us to manage our own stress levels.
That leader may be closer than we think. It could be ourselves. Or the person next to us. Step back and watch. What we learn from what we observe can be an emotional life saver.
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