Do You Perceive Stress as Negative or Positive?

There are three main factors to consider when determining whether or not you view stress as negative or positive.

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By the time most people reach out for help they are using the words “stressed,” “overwhelmed,” “trapped,” “demands,” and “pressure” to describe their current situation.

They have been coping with stress most of their career. The problem is, it has become negative stress instead of positive stress, which leaves them feeling like they are no longer in control of their situations.

Entrepreneurs, CEOs, business owners, startup founders, and other leaders are typically in those roles because they have perceived stress as positive for most of their lives. They look at a stressful situation as a problem to solve and they thrive on solutions.

These stressful situations can become negative most often during major transitions in business such as periods of rapid growth or liquidity events. Initially, it can be seen as a positive event because it means your company is growing and seeing success, but the deeper you get into the strategy the more important it becomes for you to evaluate your stress response to what is happening.

Here are three questions you can ask yourself to assess how you are going to respond to an upcoming stressful event:

  1. What does this event mean to me? (On a scale of 0-10, how important is it?)
  2. What skills do I already have that are going to help me succeed? (On a scale of 0-10, how confident am I that I can succeed at this?)
  3. What is my perception of the specific details surrounding the event? (On a scale of 0-10, how intensely are the demands of this event going to affect me?)

If the event is extremely meaningful to you, you are confident you can achieve it, and you don’t think the demands are going to exceed what you believe you can handle then you will likely have a positive experience of the event and you will rise to the challenge.

In contrast, if your perception of your ability to handle the situation as well as how you feel about the event itself is negative, pessimistic, or leaves you dreading what is about to happen then you will experience negative stress. Negative stress that goes unrelieved can leave you feeling anxious, angry, depressed, irritable, and frustrated, all of which cloud your decision making capacity and open you up to miscommunication during such a crucial time in your business. It can also have long-term health effects if it goes unrelieved for an extended period of time.

When you know a stressful event is coming up, it can be helpful to assess the level of stress you are about to experience so you can identify resources that will help you cope with the added demands.

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