Harvard Business Review on Stress

We are all familiar with stress and the myriad of ways that it can affect us. But do we understand our internal relationship with stress and how we use it to accomplish things? Can we accurately assess what kinds of stress we house in ourselves, and how those manifest in our systems differently?Hop in for this great discussion based on the recent Harvard Business Review article about stress.

January 18, 2022
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Melissa Albers  0:01  
Hey, everyone. Welcome to the self awareness Journey podcast. I'm Melissa Albers.

JJ Parker  0:06  
And I'm JJ Parker. This podcast is for seekers, seekers of happiness and joy seekers of a centered approach to success in life. Seekers of their true authentic selves.

Melissa Albers  0:17  
Get ready for some real talk on everything from anxiety, emotions and habits to love, compassion and forgiveness. We know you'll be challenged and enlightened by this conversation. We're so glad you're here. Let's dive in.

JJ Parker  0:34  
Melissa, are you stressed out

Melissa Albers  0:37  
in this moment? Or generally,

JJ Parker  0:39  
in general?

Melissa Albers  0:41  
Maybe ask, Do I feel like?

JJ Parker  0:48  
Well, no, you were kind of like talking about stress. You sent me over an article about stress, which sometimes is like a leading indicator that you're stressed out, like, Hey, Jake, is this random article about stress? Not that I'm stressed. But stress is a great topic. It's an interesting word to me,

Melissa Albers  1:09  
huh? Well, and I think to the timing of this conversation, is also very poignant, because everybody was really excited about 2022 being the reset. And I feel like it hasn't exactly panned out that way, yet. That is super true. And it's caused so much stress for people.

JJ Parker  1:32  
So let's start like, first I want to, I want to hear like what your definition of stress is, because some people say like, oh, I'm stressed out. But I feel like sometimes it's like, people use it synonymously with like, anxiety or worry, but to me, that's not really. That's a part of stress. But what is your definition of stress?

Melissa Albers  1:53  
Yeah, yeah. And I guess maybe some of it does kind of crossover. But I would say, for me, what stress means to me is that there are things going on around me that I have more awareness about that cause me to have a reaction, like, I can start feeling my energy popping up, I start having a little more attention about something, I start feeling a little more unsettled. And, and then I think it continues, if you look at that as a spec, if you look at it kind of like as a spectrum, it's like it starts with stress, and then it goes to worry, and then it goes to anxiety. For me. I think it's probably probably the same for a lot of people and maybe slightly different for others. But that's what I think stress is when something continually pervasively pops up. That causes me some sort of emotional reaction that I can't just naturally put down. Hmm, okay, how about you?

JJ Parker  2:51  
Yeah, my little different. I. For me, stress is usually workload related. Hmm. And it's like a, it's like a constant unsurmountable. To Do List. Right? To me, stress is like, there's a lot of work to be done. I don't have time to get it all done. And it becomes like a weight on me. Right? It feels like a weight like that I can't get off. So sometimes it might be work related. Often, it's actually work related. Yeah. You know, sometimes it might just be like, I gotta it's like, kind of like, workI ish kind of stuff. I get family stuff, right. Like, we have a lot to do a lot to prepare for, like going on vacation or something at the cabin, or I don't know what, like, to me, it's just like, there's a lot of stuff happening. And I don't have a lot of capacity, more control to get it done. Hmm. That, to me is what causes stress.

Melissa Albers  4:07  
You know, it's funny, you talked about the the things that occur for you to feel stress. The question you asked me was, what's your definition of stress? So that's really interesting, because then I started going to that's interesting. So what causes me those reactions specifically, you know, I'm always the kind of theory until you go right in for a specific exam. Always makes it more meaningful. But like you said, when your workload is really, really high, yeah, I'll tell you something. This is even funny, you know, being a entrepreneur and a solopreneur. I can also feel stress, if my workload isn't high. I can feel stressed if I just have one big thing that I have looming over me. And it may have nothing to do with work. Yeah, it may be a hard conversation that I have to have with My mother, you know, or something like that, but But I share the opinion that it feels like a huge weight. Yeah, that's what I would actually call stress. Yeah, like the

JJ Parker  5:13  
physical. Or like, you were talking about a little bit how it feels like, where do you feel stress in your body? Mm hmm. Like, what's your what's your body cue that got you are stressed.

Melissa Albers  5:26  
Yeah. Yeah, for me. It is it feels like a big weight on my chest. My upper chest like right under my throat. Yeah.

JJ Parker  5:37  
Yeah, to me, like, my shoulders are super tight, like, my muscles are tight.

Melissa Albers  5:42  
You know, what's funny, too, is as we've been working on the self awareness journey now for a couple of years. Here's what I have noticed. I'd be interested if you have this experience, too. But because we've been working on these things for so long, we have both figured out ways of being more aware ways of being able to manage our emotions, ways of being able to manage our thoughts. And so when something comes up, that's hard to deal with. And I can't manage it. It makes me even more stressed.

JJ Parker  6:19  
That's interesting.

Melissa Albers  6:21  
Yeah, I feel like somehow, I must be failing. Somehow. I must be going backwards a little bit.

JJ Parker  6:27  
So if you're on it was like you not meeting your own expectation, and then getting even more stressed about it exactly. Like a stress spiral. Stress. Yeah, well, so. Okay, so now we kind of know what stress looks like, what it feels like, Mm hmm. Like, how does it actually affect you? I mean, we were talking about how it affects us, like physically and, yeah, I had to mentally but like, how does that actually affect what your desired outcome in life is? Yeah, right. Yeah. Or like, why is stress like, Why does stress even exist? Right? Like, what's its purpose? What's it? What is it trying to do? And how does it affect effect in like our actions and and, and what we actually want out of life. Melissa, and I are huge self awareness nerds, we've been working on this stuff for a really long time. And we love talking about it and sharing it with all of you, we've actually brought all of the stuff we've made into an online course. And we think it's really great. The course starts by learning about yourself, and how your mind body connection works. It dives into your thoughts and feelings. And then helps you learn how to become your true authentic self. Start your journey today. Head to the self awareness journey.com To learn more, and sign up

my example would be like, I have too much workload I'm feeling stressed, is now that stress is causing me to actually not get as much work done.

Melissa Albers  8:13  
Oh, I got it. I hear what you're saying. Yeah, you know, you know, it's funny for me is I feel like I'm in this strange place of development, personal development and personal growth in which I've always been such a high achiever. And I will, I'm certain will always be a high achiever, but I'm trying to get over trying to get over that a little bit and trying to not have my my ability to feel good be based on my ability to produce. Right? So that's why stress is such an important topic for me, I think right now, because I don't want to only feel good when I'm getting 100 things done, or I don't want to feel good after I've just shipped something that I've been working on, or I want to be able to feel good no matter what. And I can't have more control over that. For some reason. I don't like that feeling at all makes me it makes me uptight, it makes me start looking at things in ways that aren't helpful towards that, towards that way of being.

JJ Parker  9:17  
Alright. Interesting. But as a professional procrastinator, like stress is a key part of my, like, output.

Melissa Albers  9:32  
No, it's not No,

JJ Parker  9:34  
yeah, totally. I like it. I'll have an insurmountable amount of work to do. The stress will kick in. And then that will be like, it'll build and build to a point where then the amount of output is huge, like the stress causes me to get over the mountain.

Melissa Albers  9:55  
Yep, that sounds like a huge problem.

JJ Parker  10:00  
I'm just trying to like, I'm just trying to like find any little avenues that says, like, stress isn't all bad, right? Like,

Melissa Albers  10:08  
yeah, okay. Late. And that's

JJ Parker  10:11  
sort of I mean, yeah, I'm actually, I'm not actually joking. I'm actually trying to like think through like, yeah, like, there is probably a way that we can use the feeling of stress. Yeah, to understand what's happening. lean into it and get through it faster. I totally agree with you. Yeah. And so you use it for good, not just to, to, like, paralyze us.

Melissa Albers  10:37  
Yeah. And what's the teeter totter effect? to that? What is on the side of what's good for you? Or good for me? Because it's different for everybody. Yeah. And then when does it when do you topple over the hill or fall off the tee? Do you remember? How scary did you have?

JJ Parker  10:58  
All of what I'm thinking is like, there's a teeter totter of like, JJ is best, most creative work on one side and a heart attack on the other side. I always picturing you not to be dramatic.

Melissa Albers  11:13  
Didn't you ever teeter totter with somebody you didn't trust? And they would get down on the bottom and then you'd jump off, they jump off? Oh,

JJ Parker  11:21  
talk about targets trust?

Melissa Albers  11:27  
Well, I think you've always used stress, or traditionally you've used stress as a way to produce out output and and that goes a little in hand in hand with the procrastination like we've talked about that before. And to a great degree, I think that it has served you a lot. However, I've also been along for the ride when it hasn't served you and it's cost you so much. So much angst.

JJ Parker  11:52  
Let's forget about those parts, though. Okay.

Melissa Albers  11:54  
Okay. That's right. We're talking about the positive impact.

JJ Parker  11:58  
Forget about that side. Oh, okay. My next question. I have this whole list of questions. Yeah. What

Melissa Albers  12:07  
the heck? You an article, I just

JJ Parker  12:11  
took a bunch of notes. Okay. So the other thing that I want to talk about with stress is like how it affects others, right? Because the thing I've noticed is when I'm carrying a lot of stress, which, like you said, is most likely a me problem. When I go interact with people, we feel guilty. That's totally true. Well, I go interact with people and I'm carrying around this like, yeah, in stress ball. Yeah. Like Atlas. Right? My interactions with other people generally don't go that well. Yeah, it'd be my personal observation. But notice, once I get the energy thing, right, I'm like, coming into things with just like, yeah, non energy. Yeah.

Melissa Albers  13:01  
Yeah. Yeah, I think you know, and we always we talk about being in partnership with other people and stuff like that. But I really think that having the awareness of how it impacts us internally, and how it feels, having a really crystal clear understanding of how it feels in our body, how it feels in our minds, how the emotions feel, and recognizing, you know, I mean, it's just like, there's a continuum. Like, if you look on a scale of zero to 10, usually we're in our scallop waves and not in our tsunami waves of issues when we're in that, you know, four to six, three to seven category. Right? But understanding our feelings about when it gets amped up beyond that, I think, is really critical, because it gives us an ability to interact with ourselves and have a different way of validating ourselves have a different way of not being as impacted by our choices that we've made, and just make a different decision. You know, it's just like, make a different decision.

JJ Parker  14:00  
Yeah. So then we're, we'll be able to, to interact with people in a much better way.

Melissa Albers  14:06  
Yeah. And I would, I would almost frame this, as we're already doing that sometimes. Like, sometimes I think, and I've noticed this in coaching recently, a lot is that, you know, as the first of the year comes around, everybody wants to have all these new found like, here are my quote resolutions. And I think, you know, just talking about how we attract things to ourselves. A lot of times if we say we want something is so far away from us that it's in a future state, so we're constantly kicking it down the road, like Oh, someday I want this someday I want this when the universe just here someday. Right? But I think like a lot of the stuff of having these discussions with the stress is we are in art, we are in partnership with ourselves often. And we often will be making these choices that are helpful for us. But every once in a while we just don't or for a period of our you know for a period of time. It's Just sucks. Yeah, we make things worse and worse and worse. It's like a runaway train.

JJ Parker  15:08  
Right, like, around the just, whatever, like the first work day of the year. Yeah. Remember, I sent you that text about my team?

Melissa Albers  15:16  
Yeah. You did? Share it

JJ Parker  15:20  
or No, yeah, it's like everybody was like everybody was like, so amped up for the for 2022 To start, and they had such big grand plans for the year, that on January 3, Monday, the first day of the year, everyone's crazy stressed out and I heard like five times, Jason's got so much work to do. We're so behind. And I'm like, This the first day, like, calm down, like it's gonna be okay. Right. But that's just that expectation thing. Right? Okay, I'll do it. And a bunch of energy. Right? Expectations, bunch of wanting to get a bunch of work done seeing a big pile of work, and then just getting instantly stressed out about it. Right. Yeah. Right. So as a whole organization,

Melissa Albers  16:10  
I wonder if I'm, well, I'm curious if we have different types of stress, about work and production versus the stress of family dynamics that we're so maybe not as aware of, because it's been such a part of our DNA? Don't you wonder about that, like your conscious awareness of your stress versus your unconscious awareness of your stress? Like, it's easy to tie stress to Timeline objects, like projects or work. But what if there isn't a timeline, and it's just a way, it's just how a part of your life, like if you have a child, or you have a parent, or you have an uncle that constantly causes a ruckus in the family structure? You know, like, that kind of stress is different?

JJ Parker  16:59  
Well, or Okay, so, or let me put a bit more bottom shelf life. Financial stress. Yeah, like you have constant financial stress, paycheck to paycheck every every week. So every week, you're just trying to just make it right. That's like an undercurrent. That's a constant. Yeah. of stress. Right. Right. Right. Right. So what you're kind of asking is, or what I'm hearing a little bit is like, there's some people live with a higher kind of, like, baseline amount of stress. Mm hmm. That then they just kind of become numb to Yeah, it's like, there's like, that's their sea level. Right. Whereas like, maybe my C level is lower my stress, my baseline stress level is lower. Right. Yeah. And then when you're interacting with people, you know, connecting with them in the right way, like knowing where their baseline stress level is important, because things are stressed them out when stress you out,

Melissa Albers  18:03  
right? I you know, I just feel compelled to say in this conversation right now is, don't you just wish we would give each other more grace? Like, you see people in stress, and there's a lot of things to be stressed about in this world today? Don't you just wish we would have more grace? And say, I don't know what's going on with that person. But I'm not going to take this personally. You know, I'm going to wish that person goodwill, I'm going to send them good, good vibes. Yeah, a friend of mine on Facebook yesterday, put a picture of a UPS box stacked on top of their mailbox. And he said, Okay, we had to remove our mailbox, because we kept having someone drive by and use a baseball bat on it. They live in kind of a rural area. And, but they're very militant about keeping a super clean driveway and a turnaround spot and everything else like that for deliveries. Well, recently, the UPS guy has been stacking it on this big mailbox out on the highway. And he was furious. So he put something on Facebook, and he's a really good guy. So you put something on Facebook, like, I am so mad, you can't get a number for UPS. You can't do anything blah, blah, blah, blah. What should I do? Okay, so then the comments just started flying and flying, right. And so then I just and I normally don't engage at all, but this time, I said, Why don't you just make a really nice sign that said, we would love to have deliveries at our front door and we keep the driveway clean for you. Yeah. And he really simple. Yeah. And he responded, he responded. Well, that is a very good idea, but I wasn't thinking of that tone. Yeah. Then he made a red mad face. Yeah. So my response was, Well, just remember, karma is whatever you put out comes back to you 1000 times over, so you might as well choose good.

JJ Parker  19:55  
Oh, yeah, right. Right.

Melissa Albers  19:58  
And then it became a job Great, then we kind of were joking about it. But it's true though, like, Gosh, I wish we could give people grace and stress times because it's so stressful for people right now.

JJ Parker  20:08  
Well, when you're, when you're talking about that, I feel I was talking about like, BIOS to how, how stress of how my stress affects other people. Right? Yeah. But then I'm thinking about the other side when when someone is stressed out, and they're like, kind of coming to me. Yeah. What do I do that? And that's what you're talking about? Like, what do I do? Yeah. When, when a stressed out energy is coming at me.

Melissa Albers  20:40  
Yeah, what do you do? White guy

JJ Parker  20:42  
just like i i bleep off to the side, I duck and cover know how to avoid it. Awesome. Honestly, sometimes I do. Leap nights. I try to hide. No, all joking aside that there is some times I have a reaction where, where there is someone who's stressed out, and even someone that I care about? And I'm just like, I can't take that on right now. Yeah, like I have a baseline amount of stress that like, or maybe I'm carrying some stress at that moment, too. And it's like, I can't take on your stress, too. But I can't I can't do it. Right. Right. So sometimes I do that. I mean, but some a lot of times, I just try to try to help someone talk through it. Yeah, right. There's an interesting, there's an interesting thing that happens with with stress, and, you know, even you can push it into a little bit of life, trauma, traumatic, or at least dramatic situations where we have a tendency to, like not want to talk about them or avoid them. Yeah, you know, I'd say things like, oh, no, it'll get better or like, you know, tomorrow will be a better day. It's gonna be okay. And try to like, downplay it. Yeah. I've found that like, like, leaning into it is more effective and helping someone get through it. Yeah. Like, tell me again, why you're stressed out, and then just like, talk about it, and then go back to it. It's like, almost like, repetition on the thing that stressing you out or that you're anxious about or whatever is causing that emotion. Going back over? Yeah, it actually diffuses. It. Avoiding it seems to like,

Melissa Albers  22:46  
amp it up. Yeah, yeah, it gives it more flame. Yeah, yeah, I agree. And I think the other thing too, that I find that I, I appreciate when someone does for me when I'm really stressed out. And this is kind of something that I do, too, is that when someone starts to talk about feeling really stressed out, they may not use even the word, they may just launch into a story about a particular topic that's got them really wound sound tight. And just again, listening. That's exactly right. But then also also asking, Is this, like asking them more questions so that they can start to uncover a little bit on their own recognition that they're spinning? Right. So like, like, are you it? Are you also giving the positive equal time? Like, you're really focusing on the all the bad parts of this, but what are some of the other ways that you could be thinking about this to help you feel better? And are you asking yourself the right questions about this? You know, because I, so I think asking some good questions in that moment, allows you to engage with them, but not feel responsible. Because again, it's it's the difference between responsibility and responsibility.

JJ Parker  24:02  
Yeah. Yeah. Another way I, I would phrase that, too, is like, what are the things that are in your control? Yeah. And what's not in your control? Right. Yeah. There's a lot of stress that happens around things that are not in our control. Precisely.

Melissa Albers  24:21  
Yeah. So

JJ Parker  24:23  
just really, like, thinking about the stress? What's the cause of it? Trying to try to get a little bit deeper? Yeah. and figure it out, like, do it. Can I control this in any way? Right. Right. Yeah. Because I figure out which parts you can control, right. Like you said, a lot of the time, the parts we can control is how we're responding to the thing we can't control.

Melissa Albers  24:47  
Right? Well, and we forget that we can't control it. Some people are like really good at polishing control. So it doesn't look like you're trying to control but you really are. And when I see say some people I'm raising my hand right now. That's me. So yeah, I think we do all have really funny little ways of managing stress. You know, we have funny little ways of managing stress. And I think it's worthy of some time to think about that. I really think it's a worthy time, especially now, this new year. And, you know, we've got 11 months left of the year, or whatever we've got left. Yeah. And just so we

JJ Parker  25:29  
talked about how, how stress feels like how if one as we develop self, yeah, self awareness, we can we can feel it in our body, we can get those like, cues earlier. But on the other side, you can see your behavior, right, your actions and and what you're doing to compensate for the stress or deal with the stress. Yeah. What are some things you do to deal with stress that aren't particularly self aware and reflective? And all those like gray? We've been titled, like, what's the acting out? Part of it? You do?

Melissa Albers  26:06  
And I think that's a good question to ask people. What is the acting out part? Because what I usually do is I try to control more.

JJ Parker  26:13  
Oh, that's, that's, that's funny, right? When we just talked about how the, the opposite is the solution?

Melissa Albers  26:19  
Yeah, exactly. It's the opposite. And the other thing is, too, is I would say this as well, you're in your investigative state. Like if you're just thinking about this, as we're talking right now. And all of a sudden you start all these things start pinging for you, like, Oh, I do this, I do that I think this, I feel that it is very easy to bring other people that you love into this equation and start diagnosing what they do when they feel stressed. And I would highly encourage you to not try to fix them. Yeah. Not try to fix them as a way to make yourself feel better. Like you're handling it. So just

JJ Parker  26:55  
a rundown some of those things like, like, what are they like, like, for me, it's like, avoidance, like, avoid doing things. Right? Do things like, go watch more TV or go play tennis or go like, entertain myself? Right? So that's an avoidance technique. Right? Maybe drinking more? Right? Yeah. So other self destructive behaviors?

Melissa Albers  27:20  
Yeah. Right. Like,

JJ Parker  27:23  
probably like, my temper or, you know, like, I get a shorter fuse. I just don't want to deal with you know, yeah, anything come

Melissa Albers  27:31  
more dismissive. Like, I become a bit more dismissive sometimes, too, for sure. Yeah, that's good. And I would say, you know, the other thing that I do well, I just realized this, I actually go into this feeling of guilt. So if I have a strong emotional reaction that I don't like, whatever it is, then I feel guilty. Why can I control my emotions more? Why do I have to be stressed out? I already know that none of this matters anyway. So why can't I stop? Yeah, so I would say that's part of the what I do, too, is us disassociate into a feeling of guilt instead of just managing that, hey, you know what? The day to day pressures right now are really, really high. And I feel stressed out and that's okay. Yeah, just, you know, yeah, yeah, I have compassion.

JJ Parker  28:18  
For, for the easy way is to like, I guess, like, recognize those behaviors, and then realize that you're stressed out like, Oh, I'm doing all of those things that are the ACT acting out of me being stressed out. Cool. I'm stressed out like Now let's dive into why. What can I control and give ourselves Grace about it?

Melissa Albers  28:37  
And other people too. It's hard right now. We need to love people up and not be hard on people.

JJ Parker  28:43  
Did you enjoy this episode? Please go to your favorite podcast platform to subscribe, rate and leave a review so others can discover it as well.

Melissa Albers  28:52  
Growing self awareness is a lifelong journey, and there's always further to go. And it's better when we're all in it together. Please think of someone you know who could benefit from hearing today's conversation and share this episode with them. We can't thank you enough for listening. Until next time, happy exploring seekers.

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Discussed in this episode

Let's get real

Meet your guides

JJ Parker

JJ Parker is a serial entrepreneur passionate about building creative strategy, efficient operations, and unique marketing perspectives. Parker got his start as a student at The Minneapolis Institute of Art, and soon after launched his first company Tightrope Media Systems (TRMS) with a high school buddy in 1997.

Melissa Albers

Melissa is passionate about developing people’s self-awareness and ability to positively interact with others. She focuses on the importance of building influence, and highlights the most important relationship we have is with self first. Ms. Albers speaks on leadership and self-awareness, and has shared the stage with John Maxwell (Leadership Author and Speaker), Lee Cockerell (Exec VP of Disney) and Les Brown (Motivational Speaker) to name a few.

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