What Stresses You Out?

emotional intelligence stress

 We are entering what the population considers the most wonderful time of the year... unless you are in retail. This time of year is high-stress. This month, we will assess how you keep your staff calm and healthy throughout this season.


As humans, we have 20,000 moments in a day. Our brain is always on the lookout for threats. If one of these moments is triggering for us, our brain knows what to do to protect us.


Think about that near-death collision you had on the way to work. All of a sudden your heart rate increases, your palms start to sweat, and your brain goes on auto-drive playing through all the things that could have happened. 


And if this happens to you on the way to work, you can guarantee you will talk about it with your co-workers, think about it, and brew on it, leaving you unengaged with your work.


When ONE of these negative moments happens, it takes the body 4 hours to recover. So, if you have back-to-back negative moments, think about what that does to your body.


Now consider a day in retail. A "normal" day has about how many negative moments? Think about retail during this time of year when everything is heightened, from your customers checking off their Christmas list to your staff moving from one moment to the next and maybe not sure when their next break will be.


Your staff is feeling the pressure.


So what happens when we feel this pressure? Our brain gets hijacked. We can't process logic and reason and default back to habitual ways of doing things because our brain is in survival mode, not memory mode.


Here is the first sign you might be under stress: You are more forgetful than usual.


Memory or forgetfulness is only one sign that your brain is under stress. There are many other physical symptoms, such as:

  •  Increased adrenaline and cortisol
  •  Increased blood pressure
  •  Cold or sweaty palms
  •  Shakiness
  •  Heart rate increased
  •  Pupils dilated 
  •  Increased muscle tension
  •  Narrowing of arteries and more


To identify these behaviors at work with your staff, it may look like: 

  •  Having decreased cognitive performance
  •  Tendency to over-generalize
  •  Responding with defensive action
  •  Perceiving small stressors as worse than they are
  •  Are easily aggravated
  •  Struggling to get along with team members 
  •  Can not perform at their best


This may seem like an impossible task to identify your stressors but also your staff's stressors, so at your next staff meeting, have everyone do this exercise:


What is or creates conflict at work? You can even use the word trigger.


Now choose one issue and answer the following questions

  •  Where do you feel it?
  •  How does it make you feel?
  •  What do you likely look like to others?
  •  What are you thinking when this happens? 
  •  Who is involved?
  •  How does it impact you?
  •  What could you do to minimize this trigger?
  •  What would be different if you could better manage this conflict?


Talking through what creates stress with your staff will give you the insight to understand what it looks like to them so you can begin to manage the day-to-day differently. 


Awareness is key. We can start by understanding that humans need 4-5 positive moments to recover from one negative moment. Begin to understand what positive moments look like to your staff. Why? Because when we are in a relaxed state, our bodies physically respond with the following:

  •  Relaxed muscles
  •  Decreased blood pressure
  •  Improved digestion
  •  Stability 
  •  Improved immune function
  •  Can be more creative 


These positive moments also translate to 

  •  Being intrinsically motivated
  •  Having improved cognitive functioning (ie. rational, creative thought)
  •  Willingness to do difficult things and take risks
  •  Think deeply about issues and develop solutions
  •  Collaborate productively 
  •  Are engaged
  •  Perform at higher levels


So try this exercise with your staff:

  •  Brainstorm what makes you calm. Write out a list
  •  Identify the ONE thing that you know makes you calm from your list
    •  Where do you feel it?
    •  How does it make you feel?
    •  What are you thinking when this happens?
    •  How can you implement this tactic when you are feeling hijacked?


To ensure your staff is engaged this holiday season, start with these few exercises, and if it is true that only 25% of our staff is engaged, create a meaningful impact and get it to 75%!! 


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