Change and adversity can travel hand in hand

  • Published
  • By Karen M. Ochsner
  • Hill AFB Commissary Store director
It seems in today's world change and adversity seem to go hand in hand. Change is such a part of my job that it keeps me challenged. Recently, I have had to handle lots of adversity with deaths, work and family. What keeps me sane at the end of the day is my faith. Handling stress is not easy but something you must put in balance. Stress is something every leader must endure and overcome if they want to lead. For me, I want to be at the top of my game so I am able to focus my energy on taking care of the military and their families.

What is stress? Stress is made up of so many things including experiences, pathways, responses and outcomes caused by a range of different events or circumstances. Studies of good managers show that they rarely get more than a few minutes alone without distraction. This can be frustrating and can contribute strongly to managerial stress. It is important to realize that everyone experiences and identifies stress differently.

Stress that creates successful creative work is beneficial while failure can be detrimental. Stress is basically a condition experienced when a person perceives that demands exceed the personal and social resources the individual is able to mobilize. In most work situations extreme stress causes our performance to suffer. The best approach is to remain calm, rational, controlled and sensitive.

Social interrelationships are just too complex not to be damaged by an aggressive approach. Finding the best balance of pressure and performance is key to success. When you achieve the right mix you are often said to be in the flow. The concept of flow was first used by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi who wrote the book "Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience." You perform at your best in this state because you are able to focus all of your efforts, resources and abilities on the tasks at hand. While "in the flow" you are sufficiently motivated to resist competing temptations, you are not so stressed that anxieties and distractions interfere with clear thought. Know your people. Anxious people perform better when they are put under little additional stress while calm people may need additional pressure to perform.

It is important to remember that stress reduces people's ability to deal with large amounts of information. You will see that people under overwhelming stress who will persist in a course of action even when there are better alternatives. In my job, concentration is a rare commodity; there are various solutions I can pursue to create periods of flow such as working from home or setting aside parts of the day as quiet periods. Another solution is to delegate the activities that require the greatest levels of concentration, allowing me to concentrate on problems as they arise, serving to create a flow of their own. Each person has to find ways to effectively deal with change, stress and adversity if they want to grow as an individual. It is important to remember to keep the lines of communication open and to realize you have the right to make some mistakes. They are inevitable, particularly when you are stretching yourself to do something new or original.

At the end of the day I am lucky to have a job where the goal is to provide service to the military community. I am grateful for all my customers who make my job worthwhile. The wonderful customers who take the time to say, "Thank you," and let you know that you make a difference goes a very long way in reducing my daily stress.