To be honest, the word “stress” makes me feel stressed. As soon as this little six-letter words pops up in my head, my heart rate increases, my blood pressure increases, and I lose focus. Even the good type of stress, called eustress, does not sound good in my ear. It evokes thoughts of panic, of too much to do and too little time, and of shutting down. I want to turn off all the lights and hide underneath my bed so that the stress-goblins can’t find me.
There many types of stress, including acute stress, episodic acute stress, and chronic stress. Acute stress is short, but it can be frequent. It happens for example when you make a mistake at work or when you are about to give a presentation. Acute stress is not necessarily detrimental to your well-being, but it can become harmful is you experience it a lot. Episodic acute stress is when this type of stress occurs often. It makes people irritable, short-tempered, and aggressive because they live in a constant feeling of running behind, as if they can never catch up with life. Chronic stress is when you experience stress over long periods of time. It has a significant impact on a person’s mental, emotional, and physical health and it can lead to burnout. Burnout is the physical and/or mental collapse caused by prolonged or chronic stress. It can take weeks or even months to fully recover from it, during which a person is typically not able to work. Needless to say, it is critical to avoid burnout at any cost.
Knowing how to recognize and reduce symptoms of stress has become a critical part of today’s professional life. The constant pressure to be reachable can create or increase stress, so what we really need to learn is how to create a balance between work and taking time to rejuvenate so that we are more productive during the hours we need to focus.
People develop coping resources to handle stress throughout their personal and professional lives. When you experience stress, keep track of what work best for you so that you end up with a personal coping resource list. For example, when I am stressed, exercise helps me feel better. I also know that I at times I need to check my email first thing when I wake up to get a sense of any urgent issues, and sometimes I need to delete my work email off my phone in order to cope with my stress levels. Knowing what works for YOU is the key, so trying new things and exploring different options is a great way to keep your stress levels at bay.
Work is never done. However, knowing when and how to take a break to clear and refresh your mind needs to be part of everyone’s long-term professional goal. Life and work is a marathon, so developing coping skills to handle both acute and chronic stress is essential to make sure we all make it across the finish line.
Note: Stay tuned for the upcoming release of our ASCP Leadership Institute course called Stress Analysis and Coping Resources!
-Lotte Mulder earned her Master’s of Education from the Harvard Graduate School of Education in 2013, where she focused on Leadership and Group Development. She’s currently working toward a PhD in Organizational Leadership. At ASCP, Lotte designs and facilitates the ASCP Leadership Institute, an online leadership certificate program. She has also built ASCP’s first patient ambassador program, called Patient Champions, which leverages patient stories as they relate to the value of the lab.