Last Friday, I over-scheduled myself.
I hustled out of rowing practice to get home and take a shower before my first Zoom meeting. Then I scarfed down some lunch while driving to meet with a coaching client, turning around to come right back home for another call.
As the day went on, I noticed my mood souring. I was impatient with the traffic, and anything that went anyway wrong seemed like a very big deal. It was a wonder that I could get into the right mindset for coaching conversations.
My “stress self” was showing up.
What are we like when we are under stress, time pressure or not getting enough sleep?
And what impact does this state have on others, especially if we are in leadership roles where people around us are especially attuned to our demeanor and tone of voice.
Understanding our stress self is key to managing it. Here’s how.
First take stock of your “stress self” characteristics. if you are aren’t sure, ask someone you trust. You might find your stress displays differently at work and outside of work.
Some of mine are:
- Being impatient and easily irritated
- Expecting the worst case scenario
- Speaking less clearly… which then makes me even more impatient and irritated when people don’t understand what I’m saying.
Then, think about the opposite characteristic and try to access it.
- From impatient to patient: Drive gently. Pause before speaking or acting
- From negative to hopeful: Put off making evaluations or judgements
- From wordy to clear: Fully formulate my thoughts before speaking, and edit texts and emails carefully
To be sure, there is deeper work needed to understand the cause of stress and to gain access to practices that relieve it, like self care, mindfulness, and better schedule management (in my case). This is more like a tool in your self awareness “reagent kit” to pull out when you notice the stress self showing up.
And, when I shared this exercise with a coaching client, we realized that the opposite of their stress self was a good description of their best self. So moving forward, they used both the characteristics of their best self and the behaviors that counteracted their stress self to manifest their best self leadership.
So right now, notice: are you feeling like your best self or your stress self?