We live in a digital time. Our rhythms are rushed and relentless, our days carved up into bits and bytes. We celebrate quick reaction more than considered reflection. Expectations related to response time have shrunk from a few days to a few minutes. There is little opportunity to consider decisions or the content of communication. We race through our lives without pausing to consider who we really want to be or where we really want to go. We’re wired up but we’re melting down.

Most of us are just trying to do the best that we can. When demand exceeds our capacity, we begin to make expedient choices that get us through our days and nights, but take a toll over time. Faced with relentless demands at work, we become easily distracted and feel exhausted. The term 24/7 describes a world in which work never ends. We use words like overwhelmed to characterize our everyday lives. We spend much of our time reacting to unplanned events and making quick decisions with minimal analysis. Feeling forever starved for time, we assume that we have no choice but to cram as much as possible into every day. Job satisfaction is becoming merely a concept.

Considerable research has been conducted on the topic of stress in a variety of settings and disciplines. A common definition includes the negative impact on performance due to stress e.g. caused by information overload and is measured by decision-making ability. If a decision-maker (and we all are) obtains more information than he can process, overload occurs and decision-making ability decreases. Any information received beyond that point will not be processed, may lead to confusion and could have a negative impact on the ability to set priorities as well as remember previous information.

It is not difficult to imagine the affect this has on both individuals and organizations. It is common knowledge that stress, over an extended period of time, has a negative impact on physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health, including the following symptoms:

  • Poor concentration due to the overloading of short-term memory
  • Multi-tasking often resulting in diminished rather than increased productivity
  • Hurry sickness, which is the belief that one must constantly rush to keep pace with time
  • A chronic state of irritability or anger
  • “Plugged in” compulsion or the strong need to check email and the internet in order to stay “in touch”
  • Lowered immune response, endocrine imbalance, depression and the experience of “burn out”

The causes of these situations will not disappear by themselves. They require thoughtful solutions. An awareness of what is better, combined with an understanding of the symptoms will allow us to generate useful and practical solutions to the problem of stress.

Join us next week when we will explore some solutions to minimize and eliminate STRESS.

Hugo Van den Bergh PEPworldwide Belgium

Johan Chr. Holst, PEPww Norway, Redaktør

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