How Conditioned Stress Responses Affect Your Executives
Every day, executives are faced with the stressors of uncertainty from complex situations and problems to solve. Stress is an inevitable part of life, but when it becomes chronic or unmanaged, it can lead to negative physical and psychological effects.
Stress wreaks havoc on the body's immune system as well as its ability to fight disease. Even if you're a healthy person who exercises regularly and eats a balanced diet, your health will still be at risk for damage from sustained high levels of stress hormones in your blood stream.
In this article we'll take a look at how conditioned responses may affect your executive team members' bodies and minds more than anyone else's.
What is a Conditioned Stress Response?
This is the fight or flight response to stress is a natural reaction in the body. However, when it occurs after an event that might not otherwise elicit such a strong emotional response—like sitting at your desk for long periods of time or attending meetings where you feel powerless and unheard—these fears can take on new meanings. This article is about how executive stress and anxiety may be related to a conditioned Stress Response.
What is Stress?
Stress can take many forms, but it's most commonly defined in relation to the body’s response to an external factor that demands more of your resources than you are able or willing to give up at any given moment. This definition includes the body’s response to both good and bad events. Stress can be physical, emotional, or mental in nature. The effects of stress vary from person-to-person and may include:
- Difficulty sleeping deeply
- Eruptions of anger
- Irritability with loved ones
- Trouble concentrating at work or school
- Feeling constantly “on edge”
- Increased risk of getting sick
- Difficulty making decisions.
- Stress can have physical effects, such as headaches and stomachaches, or emotional effects like depression and anxiety.
- Stress is also linked to a variety of serious health conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, cancer, asthma and more!
Executive Stress and Anxiety
It's not uncommon for executives to feel chronically stressed, but what is it about their work that makes them so vulnerable? The answer may lie in a conditioned stress response. After being exposed to the situation multiple times, the individual executive might find themselves to be more stressed than they ever imagined they could be.
When your body learns how to react strongly to an event or situation you experience over and over again, the response becomes more automatic and difficult to control. Stress and anxiety are often conditioned responses, which means that your body may react more strongly to the types of stressors that you experience most frequently.
Executive-level employees face a variety of recurring sources of stress - from managing higher expectations to trying to meet new deadlines, etc., all day long! As leaders in the company, they arguably face more stress than others that they work with. Their conditioned stress responses can be much more engrained, meaning that the effects of their stress could potentially be even worse than others in lower positions or with less experience in the company.
The Effects of a Conditioned Stress Response
As mentioned above, prolonged exposure to stress can have serious consequences on the body and mind. Stress hormones are released as a response to an event, but when they're constantly present in high levels because of chronic stress or anxiety, these hormones start taking their tolls. They might not show their signs at first, but you will notice them when the effects are deeply engrained in your mental and physical health.
Stress-induced conditions such as heart disease contribute heavily to America's health care crisis. This accounts for over 60% of all deaths and are a major cause of missed workdays. Stress is also strongly correlated with obesity, depression and anxiety disorders, which can negatively affect an employee's quality of life as well as their ability to perform on the job!
What Executives Can Do
While it may be difficult for executives themselves to manage stressors in their personal lives, they can take steps to minimize stress in the workplace. Some of these strategies include:
- Creating an open dialogue and encouraging feedback from their teams
- Setting clear expectations with deadlines to meet
- Allocating time for employees to recharge during the day or week
- Making a conscious effort to cultivate good communication between managers and employees
- Implementing a Stress Management Program for employees
- Assigning tasks that promote creativity and problem solving to less stressed mindsets.
- Practice stress management techniques such as: meditation, yoga, deep breathing exercises or spending time in nature. These types of practices can help cultivate inner peace and provide both the mind and body with calming benefits.
Using Emotional Intelligence Training for Stress
One of the most effective ways to manage stress is through emotional intelligence training. This can be done individually, with one other person, or in a group corporate setting via zoom or in office training. The program you choose should help you to identify sources of stress, monitor levels and determine whether or not they need intervention.
Emotional regulation will also help participants cultivate peace within themselves as well as learn how to better manage stressors in their lives. Not only will this help at the office, but this can also trickle into other areas of your life, such as your personal stressors and your family life!
Stress management programs are an important part of the stress solution, and should be implemented before damage to themselves or the team has occurred. For executives that feel too stressed, this is an essential part of their daily organization and their self-care in and out of the office.
If you are close to reaching a breaking point as an executive, it's very likely that they're close to burnout if stress levels have reached such heights. Stress management programs provide hope for recovery from chronic stress or anxiety, which can ultimately help to prevent stress-induced conditions. Avoiding burnout is essential and with the right self-care, you won’t have to worry about reaching this drastic point with your work.
Stress management programs can be a highly effective way to combat the effects of stress and anxiety on your executives! Executives are more susceptible than most people because they face high levels of stressors in their day-to-day lives. However, implementing these types of programs has been shown to provide relief from stress and stress-induced conditions. Stress management programs can benefit an executive both in terms of their Stress levels and quality of life.
Hi, I am Tiffany Spencer a High Performance and Wellness Coach! I help busy CEOs, Leadership Teams and Entrepreneurs make impactful business and lifestyle changes by leveraging emotional intelligence for Maximum Focus, Health and Performance.