Vivek Murthy, until recently the U.S. Surgeon General and tasked with the country’s health, observed about the United States, “I traveled the country listening to people. What I sensed was that people were experiencing a high degree of emotional pain….. I am deeply concerned about the level of stress that our country is experiencing. I think it’s preventing us from experiencing our full potential.” Continue reading
Stress. Stress! Stress@*&#! It is an ever-increasing part of our discourse, and the very word has begun to be the lexicological equivalent of such other negatively super-charged words as ‘cancer’ and ‘politician’. Yet we all recognize that some degree of stress can be energizing. The problem is that for many leaders, stress has become too intrusive, too consistent, and too disorienting to be energizing.
A little science helps to understand what happens to our responses as stress increases. Way back in 1908 scientists Robert Yerkes and John Dillingham Dodson experimented with the impact of introducing varying intensities and frequencies of stress on performance of tasks. What became known as the Yerkes-Dodson Law demonstrated that increased stimulation (stressors) can improve performance – up to a certain point. A certain level of stress releases the brain chemicals adrenaline and cortisol that enhance motivation and focus on the task at hand, and even some, like dopamine, that actually enhance brain function and feelings of satisfaction. After that point, however, the concentration of stress hormones in the system creates negative effects. Continue reading