Limit the impact of stress on your performance at work

Jan 24, 2022

Limit the stress symptoms that can be most damaging at work.


If there is one thing I really wouldn’t like to be described as, it’s mediocre. And yet, when I started to understand the stress reponse properly this was my take-away. Not addressing day to day stress made me mediocre (harsh, I know!)

Ignoring low level stress or not acknowledging changes in the way I behaved when stressed had a really negatively impact my performance and behaviour at work. Often in ways I really didn't notice at the time. 

People often don’t think they are stressed. Or they have come to accept an underlying level of stress that feels “normal”. But even small, seemingly unrelated stress changes the wiring in our brain in the moment, and over the longer-term it can make more permanent changes. 

Stress takes more of our resources for powering the surveillance / survival, emotional, reactive areas of our brain,  and less for the slower, intensive, intentional, thinking part. The set-up of wiring and switches in that moment will change our reaction to something quite noticeably. 


5 common yet under-estimated ways I have seen this effect performance: 

  1. Poorer decision making – e.g. change in risk taking, limited logic or creativity

  2. Reversion to default thinking patterns & fears – e.g. imposter syndrome comes to the surface more easily

  3. Trying to over-control things even if not related to the stressor - e.g. micro-managing, making unnecessary changes

  4. Over-reaction – emotional or physical - e.g. an “outburst”

  5. Reduced ability to interact with other people constructively – e.g. empathy, communication & listening 

I have seen so many people beat themselves up over their reaction at work to something when they were under-pressure elsewhere in life (“WHY did I do that, say that, not see that?”). In reality it is simply the natural process of stress playing out unchecked. I include myself in this …  I cried at a new seating plan (Diva possibly, stressed definitely), took it out team members & tried to over-control them when senior management behaved unreasonably, defaulted to victim status,… I have a long list!

The good news is that it doesn’t take hours of coaching or therapy to eradicate each behaviour…  because it doesn’t happen all the time! It simply means we need to identify what changes and put a safety net in place to catch it and minimise the impact.

Similarly, addressing bigger career barriers such as imposter syndrome can be much more effective if we have ways to deal with the stress that makes us more likely to default to that way of thinking.

The first pillar in “The Stress Reset” framework is RECOGNISE. Most of us aren’t very good at noticing these behaviour changes in ourselves (which is totally natural).  But with guidance it’s much easier, and there are ways to ask those around to help us see that they may see more easily (we’ve all done that eye-roll to someone else’s typical over-reaction!) 

Find out more about The Stress Reset course here 




Catching our stress reaction and stopping it from taking us down the wrong route can be really easy. 

When you sense yourself making a snap decision, emotionally fuelled reaction, or behaviour that impacts others... 

take a couple of breaths and ask yourself 

"how do I want to remember my reaction to this?"




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