What makes you stress.
Conflict exists all around us. In fact, the military was built as a result of conflict. Without it, there would be no reason for the organization's existence. Within the military culture, there can be conflict that is quite stressful at times. Stress can be defined as physical, mental, or emotional strain, tension, or conflict. There are variables that can contribute to the stress we must endure on a day-to-day basis. These changing variables have a direct effect on how well we are able to do the necessary things for mission accomplishment, family welfare, or task completion, and still expect to have a little time to relax.
Stress can be a performance enhancer, but it can also act as a performance killer. As war fighters, we must ensure the stress we encounter is maintained at a manageable level. When we are exposed to an environment with a low stress level, issues of complacency, inattention, and habituation are likely to develop.
The opposite stands true as well. Our performance will begin to suffer when we have an increased amount of stressors affecting us. Channelized attention, task saturation, and negative distractions are commonly identified anomalies in high-stress situations. Our physical and mental performance will react to stress in a good way when we are under a manageable amount of stress, provided it's coming from a positive source.
You may be asking what would qualify as a "positive source" of stress. If you've ever played a competitive sport, you probably know exactly what I mean. Examples could be anything from the first tee butterflies in your golf game to practicing emergency procedures in the aircraft. If used in the proper manner, this stress will motivate you to perform at your best. We must channel it to get positive results. Here are a few other examples of positive stressors:
* Making difficult decisions (buying a new car or home; separating from the military)
* Taking a test
* Upcoming deadlines
* Enrollment in a rigorous course
* Completing a task while being evaluated
We must also identify the "negative stressors" in our environment that could invite poor performance. Generally speaking, this type of stressor would qualify as events that are out of our control. Here are a few examples to give you a better idea:
* Doing more with less
* Dissatisfaction with work environment/supervision
* Poor financial state due to suffering economy
* PCS cycle/moves
* Deployment of family members or co-workers
* Family Issues (marital/children/death in family)
Currently, many people have increased amounts of stress on their mind and body that must be recognized. The precise physiological response for an increase in the level of negative stressors is usually different from person to person. Generally, an overstressed individual will have drastic changes in behavior such as:
* Increased Frustration/Anger (short fuse syndrome)
* interpersonal Issues
* Financial Irresponsibility
* Lack of Motivation
As Airmen, we should be doing a daily self-evaluation -- for ourselves, as well as for the individuals we work with on a regular basis. If you've been working in the same place for a while, you probably have a good idea of the different personality types and what can push their buttons. It is critical that we take care of ourselves and others in this respect. If the stress level of just one individual is excessively high, it could affect everyone in the crew or environment resulting in a potential disaster. We can avoid this type of event by implementing the appropriate coping strategies.
The first, most important, coping strategy is communication. We must create an environment where our fellow Airmen are comfortable addressing issues with their leadership. When this communication is lacking, the leadership connection will quickly become severed. Prioritization is another key to dealing with stress effectively. We must use mental and physical coping strategies to our advantage to eliminate some of the stresses we are battling. Find a method that works best for you. Would you rather hang out with friends or just have time to yourself? Should you go on a vacation or simply relax at home?
Regardless of how you decide to deal with things that stress you out, it must first be recognized. In order to succeed, use positive stress as a motivator, and reduce negative stress so that you can think more clearly. Moderating the quality (positive or negative) and quantity (too much or not enough) of stress we are dealt can result in enhanced performance. As William Ellery Channing once said, "Difficulties are meant to rouse, not discourage. The human spirit is to grow strong by conflict."