Stress vs. Strain: Knowing the Difference Can Help You Cope

These are unprecedented times. And much uncertainty remains. Understandably, like all business leaders, you’re anxious. You bear the weight of responsibility for your organization, your employees, and, in many cases, the products and services your customers depend on.
In short, you’re under stress. But does that mean you have to feel stressed? I’m reminded that engineers make a distinction between stress and strain. Stress refers to the force applied to an object whereas strain refers to how the object responds to that stress. Different objects respond differently to the same stress depending on their properties.
The same is true of people. Not everyone responds to the same stress in the same way. More importantly, everyone can learn to respond differently to stress. Which means—and this is the key point for business leaders—that while you may not be able to control the stress you’re under, you can influence the strain you experience.
If you choose to.
How can you minimize strain? Here are a few steps to get you started:
First, acknowledge that it’s a choice, that you can influence the strain you experience. Next, make a commitment that you will take action to influence it for the better. Finally, believe that you will be successful. Don’t allow for any other possibility. These three steps alone will start to orient your response to stress.
Now, what specific actions should you take? For now, let’s just focus on your physical well-being. Four things: Rest. Nutrition. Exercise. Hygiene. That’s it. Stay reasonably well-rested (which includes taking breaks during the day), reasonably well-nourished, get at least some physical activity each day, and maintain sound hygiene practices. Simply do these and you’re almost certain to experience less strain.
Yes, the external stressors may be out of your control. But you can influence the amount of strain you experience. It’s a choice. Choosing to take steps to lessen strain will help you cope during these challenging times.
Make it happen.
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