I learned about the effects of stress on individuals and organizations from a teacher named Eugene Jennings.
He outlined three. I’m going to take one at the time.
One is called a “Heightened Event Awareness” (HEA) Jennings said that when we are under stress, we tend to attribute to events greater importance than they may deserve.
Here are a couple of examples:
You are feeling stressed and anxious. You get a call from your child’s school that he has missed two days of homework. You decide that your worst fears are being fulfilled: your child is sure to become a dropout and a failure. You create a big program for path correction. All while you are wondering what’s got into you.
Big over reaction. A mild setback is turned into a major event. You place more importance on the event than it really is. That’s HEA.
It can go the other way as well. When things are happening that cause you strength, you yearn for any good news which will give you relief. A couple of positive things occur and you leap to the conclusion that everything is going to be fixed. You can turn a couple of fortuitous events into a trend where nothing will ever go wrong again. You are blind-sided when you learn the problem isn’t solved yet, and there’s still work to do. That’s HEA.
Under stress, our perception is off. We can be more dramatic. We can imagine dire consequences. Our activity can become manic.
To understand that stress can affect our perception is power in itself. If you know that you have that tendency, you can adjust. You can double check. You can ask for others feedback.
When under stress, don’t go with your first reaction. Pause and consider deeper. Ask for the views of others. Trust your team.