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Tuesday Insight - Self Doubt and Distress

Tuesday Insight - Self Doubt and Distress

The problem with naming your newsletter, Tuesday Insight, is that, well, you have to send it out on a Tuesday! And, for the last three Tuesday’s I’ve not been able to send a Tuesday Insight to either our Trainers' Library or Managers' Library customers, due to holiday, the great honour of being invited to the Queen’s Royal Garden Party and our team’s quarterly strategy review and training day last week.

And now, on my first Tuesday after the long break, I’m feeling under extra pressure to say something particularly insightful; something that was worth your wait. And for quite a while, I’ve been sat here, fingers hovering over the keyboard, with absolutely nothing to say. 

We can all do that can’t we – put ourselves under pressure to perform? Sometimes that’s a good thing – a certain degree of stress can motivate us to do better or deliver our best possible performance. 

But when we put ourselves under too much pressure, that can lead to distress – which is what we really mean when we talk about the negative effects of stress. 
It’s easy to imagine that all distress can be attributed to external factors - a lack of power or control, our relationships with others or the shortage of a resource like time or money, for example. We tend to forget that a lot of distress comes from ourselves – from our own expectations of our performance and the judgements we make of ourselves. Indeed, we’re often much more critical of ourselves than others would be. 

The way we view the world, and our experiences within it, and the way we react to external pressures, also directly impact upon our levels of distress.

Shad Helmstetter in ‘What to Say When You Talk To Yourself' suggests that up to 77% of the messages we give ourselves are negative. It’s easy to see how that might be possible: We visualise things going wrong, we make assumptions, we label ourselves or others, we devalue positive feedback - and focus unduly on that one negative comment - and adopt countless other strategies that are seemingly designed to simply make us feel bad about ourselves.

Whilst some stress is healthy, distress certainly isn’t. One study has suggested that up to 13.4 million days a year could be lost in the UK alone to distress. As managers therefore, it’s in our interests to help people understand the nature of distress, how to manage it, and the value of positive thinking. 

There's some great activities in Managers' Library you can run with your team around this topic:

Problems - What Can I Do About Them?: A practical activity that encourages your team members to look at issues/challenges they face and identify which ones to tackle.

Procrastination - A Hot Topic: A fun exercise but one that shows how procrastination can increase anxiety and stress levels.

Describing Your Glass - Optimism vs Pessimism: A chance to consider the impact these two different behaviours have.

We'll be adding more to Managers' Library on the topic of stress, or distress, and, of course, you can see all of the latest additions on the Managers' Library Home Page

And a final thought: 
Amazing things can happen when we are able to put our doubts aside. If you’d have told me twenty years ago that one day I’d be in the gardens of Buckingham Palace sipping tea, I’d have laughed. To be honest, I’d have been even more surprised if you’d told me I’d be going to Glastonbury for the first time, two months before my fiftieth birthday – but I am.

Everyone has different opportunities, different doors; don’t let your self-doubts be the barrier that prevents them being opened.

June 7 2016 Rod Webb
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Rod Webb

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