What is it?
One way to look at it is from the engineering point of view - let's take a bridge. Bridges come in lots of different designs, each design having its particular strengths. Box girder bridges are strong but heavy. Suspension bridges are also strong, are great for long spans but are pricey. Arched bridges can look lovely but involve more materials for their construction. But what they all have in common is that no matter how strong they are, if subjected to the wrong forces, too much, they will fail eventually. Often with little warning.
How do we lose it?
And so it is with us. We can endure many things, at a certain level of stress. We're built for it. Some of us thrive on the pressures of our jobs - it helps us to feel alive, useful even. Others can only tolerate more moderate pressures before they start to buckle under the pressure. Bottom line: we all need some stress to get us moving in the morning and we equally all have a breaking point on the approach to which we begin to feel off balance, anxious and even depressed.
How can we keep it?
There are plenty of good sources of information on stress out there and if you're curious take a look at the MIND website which amongst other things tells you what to look out for.
What I want to focus on here, for a moment, are a few things we can do to remain resilient. To protect our mental 'infrastructure' from the stuff that we encounter, and in fact invite, into our lives.
Back to our bridges and the engineering angle... here are 3 areas to be vigilant around. We'll go into more depth in the forthcoming webinar: Resilience: How to find it, how to keep it.
Regulate the traffic
A couple of things here... Firstly, that old chestnut...learn to say "no". I just don't buy the "ooh, it's such a competitive world out" there line. And even if you do, consider how it looks when you have a person who will say yes to anything standing next to one who is prepared to question the need for speed or a particularly torturous exercise. Saying "no" or "not now" is wise, not weak not least of all because it often makes people stop and think about a better, easier, simpler way. Nothing weak about that.
We all have a pace that's comfortable for us. Life becomes interesting when we sometimes have to travel much faster to keep up with events and deadlines -great. But going hard and fast takes extra resources, concentration and therefore energy. Sometimes regulating our speed is about breaking old bad habits like leaving things late to create false pressure to perform. If you need a deadline to get you out of bed, fine. But recognise that even if you find it exciting, it is costing you.
Keep your distance
If your job involves coming into contact with other people's problems then this one is for you. One of the things we will cover in depth during the webinar is the business of distinguishing between different types of helping. Broadly speaking we need to know when we are sympathising and rescuing versus when we are empathising and enabling. In the next few days, take a look at how you help your team and your colleagues. Are you facilitating or are you swooping in to rescue? There's nothing wrong with the odd rescue but getting into the habit of ambulance chasing may really test your structure beyond its working limits because, quite simply, there's only one of you.
What do I do if I'm in deficit already?
Talk about it. Tell someone. Do not be tough. You may have to do little more than to explain your position to someone and to take a few long weekends to regroup. By stepping back from the traffic you will at least be able to assess for yourself, where you are. You are the expert so pay attention to your own best advice.
To finish with: a few key words and links around the topic.