“I know my family should be my priority, it is – but honestly – they get what’s left of me after my workday – and that’s not much. I’m so exhausted from putting out fires for my team all day; the stress is killing me. It’s not fair to my family and it’s not what I want for my life. Something has to change.”
Hearing this from an established executive on the first call of a group consulting program was not shocking to me. In my practice, I hear this sentiment a lot. It was also not surprising to his colleagues in the cohort. They felt a similar way: the pressure doesn’t stop when you leave the office. They feel like their family relationships - especially their relationship with their spouse - was suffering because of workplace stress. They blamed it on the stress of the daily grind - at least they did before we started working together.
On Lewis Howes The School of Greatness podcast with Jillian Turecki 'The Harsh Truth About Relationships' https://lnkd.in/e3Y4U2g7 the certified relationship coach said that the number one reason relationships fail is because someone is not able to manage their day-to-day stressors of life. A person comes home and dumps the stress of work and life on their partner.
I loved hearing Jillian articulate this in such a direct and meaningful way. I completely agree. While fixing your home life has never been the focal point for my value proposition - improved home relationships (beyond the results at work) are huge drivers of why my clients keep working with me.
Each of us only has so much capacity to do, think, feel and be each day. If that’s consumed by the constant tug of workplace responsibilities and you don’t have a way to turn off the frustrations, or effectively process the sustained intensity – then of course your relationships will take the brunt of it.
Here's my take on the situation of unchecked stress. I believe people are struggling to ‘manage’ their stress because stress management is not the answer for a more contented life and healthier relationships.
Stress management assumes the stress hormones are going to fire and need to be burned with behaviour-based activities like exercise and meditation. Those are important for a healthy lifestyle – but let’s face it – there are lot of stressed people at the gym. This standard advice is only a portion of the answer.
I believe traditional, behaviour-based stress management advice is not a full answer to lowering stress - there are lots of stressed people at the gym to prove it.
What’s worse is people who aren’t having success with this typical advice then judge themselves for failing – which ultimately creates more destructive stress. It’s a viscous loop.
At a high-level of definition, I invite you to think of the stress puzzle like this:
Stress Management: is how you process the hormonal reaction to your circumstances. It assumes the stress response is already in high gear.
Stress Reduction: is your strategic effort to stop letting the stress reaction fire in the first place, or at least significantly minimize the intensity of it.
Resilience: is your ability to navigate the circumstances and keep going in the face of those challenges - regardless if the stress hormones fire or not.
Burnout: is the result of ineffective tools to be resilient, manage and / or reduce stress.
I believe that the future of work is going to require a deeper solution that enables the well-being of leaders and their teams while supercharging bottom-line results and productivity.
One of the biggest Stress Illusions is that stress levels increase as business results go up. More business = more problems = more stress. That doesn't need to be automatically true. Here's a quick video about this very belief: