The R3 Continuum Playbook: The Good, the Bad, and the Cumulative: Is All Stress Equal?
R3 Continuum’s Vice President of Crisis Response Clinical Service, Jeff Gorter, MSW, LCSW, examined the different kinds of stress, how to recognize and manage stress within yourself, and how to seek help when you need it.
The full webinar can be found here.
The R3 Continuum Playbook is presented by R3 Continuum and is produced by the Minneapolis-St.Paul Studio of Business RadioX®. R3 Continuum is the underwriter of Workplace MVP, the show which celebrates heroes in the workplace.
Intro: [00:00:01] Broadcasting from the Business RadioX studios, here is your R3 Continuum Playbook. Brought to you by Workplace MVP sponsor, R3 Continuum, a global leader in workplace behavioral health, crisis, and security solutions.
Shane McNally: [00:00:15] Hi everyone. My name is Shane McNally, Digital Marketing Project Lead at R3 Continuum. On this episode of the R3 Continuum Playbook, we’ll be listening to a segment from a recent webinar that was presented by R3 Continuum’s Vice President of Crisis Response Clinical Services, Jeff Gorter. This webinar was titled The Good, The Bad, and the Cumulative: Is All Stress Equal? Jeff discussed what makes some stress good versus bad, and the important differentiators between the two, and what you can do in your day-to-day life to help mitigate all those stressors from becoming negative.
Jeff Gorter: [00:00:49] So if there are four different types of stress, if there are different types of stress, what is fascinating? And what I really want you to take away from this is that, interestingly enough, the body doesn’t differentiate between these different variations. The body doesn’t know—the reaction the body has between distress and new stress is pretty much the same, that adrenaline flush, the increased heart rate, the increased blood flow to the large muscle groups, all of that is the same whether it’s good stress or bad stress.
Jeff Gorter: [00:01:20] The body’s doing what the body does to face this challenge. The key here, research has shown that the mind does, the mind differentiates. And by that, I mean, their research has shown there is physiological cognitive changes that occur in the brain based on what’s called locus of control. And locus of control means, how much agency do I perceive myself to have in this situation? How much ability to influence it, to make choices, to take steps to affect this situation?
Jeff Gorter: [00:02:00] And so, if I have a high-level locus of control, if I believe that I can do something, that leads to literal physiological changes in your body and in your mind. So, it comes down to this, the event is the event, the stress is the stress. That’s not changing. The event is the event, but the interpretation I bring to it, what meaning I attribute to it makes all the difference. So, again, the event happens, and if I say to myself, okay, this was a difficult situation, but where it goes from here is up to me.
Jeff Gorter: [00:02:42] I believe I can make—this is something that is worth the fight and I think I can make a difference in this, or do I say, here it is, yet another horrible thing following a whole bunch of other horrible things, there’s no point in this, I can’t make any difference? What are my efforts going to amount to? There’s a point, an inflection point, it’s called, an inflection point, where we have to make a decision about what meaning we put on this.
Jeff Gorter: [00:03:12] Do we say, okay, yes, this was painful, but I am filled with hope that we can get through this, or do I say, this was painful, and I bet more is coming? And I have a sense of despair, a sense that it’s never going to get better. Do I have a sense of satisfaction that, okay, my efforts can make a difference and the choices I make right now are worth making, or do I say, I throw up my hands, I’m just a soccer ball on the field of life, and I just get kicked around, and it doesn’t really matter what I do or don’t do?
Jeff Gorter: [00:03:49] And again, you see, the meaning is what makes the difference. It’s not that the event is somehow different. It’s the event is the event, but that moment where I make a decision about, how do I interpret this, what does this mean about myself, or my family, or my company, or my country, that when I attribute a more positive meaning, the sense that I believe I can make a difference, it takes me in one direction.
Jeff Gorter: [00:04:20] If I feel there’s no point, I can never get through this, it’ll never get better, that takes me in a different direction. And neither one is a foregone conclusion. It all comes down to the interpretation that we have on it. And what is so fascinating, I think, is that it comes down to the power of belief, because research has shown it’s not as if—see, I didn’t want this to be a stress management presentation that says, here are the top 10 things you need to do to manage your stress.
Jeff Gorter: [00:04:57] We’ve all seen those. There’s lots of those out there. And I am going to give you some ways, some suggestions on how to manage the stress, so I’m not being pejorative in that, but what research has shown is that it’s not the coping skills that individuals have or don’t have that’s important. What counts are the coping skills they believe they have or not. There are 1,000 different ways to manage stress to the degree that you believe you can. It’s not as if there are some 10 FDA-approved stress management things, and these are the only ones you should do. No.
Jeff Gorter: [00:05:39] Each of us has our own unique set of life experiences, of resources, of talents, and ways that we can respond to stress if we believe we can. As simple as that sounds, that is incredibly profound, and that’s what makes the difference. So, there are some things that we can do that can help enhance that. So, it begins with, I can’t change what I don’t know, I need to be mindful, I need to pay attention to what my body is saying.
Jeff Gorter: [00:06:19] So, again, that physical reaction, am I tightening up? Am I walking around with my fists unconsciously clenched, because I’m ready for that fight response, or am I feeling like I could jump out of my skin and run out of the room every moment, because I’m in that flight mode? What is my body telling me? I need to pay attention to that in order to regain some control. And what is my mind saying? What’s my internal dialogue, as it were? What am I saying? Am I saying, okay, this is rough, but I think we can do it, or am I saying this is overwhelming and there’s no way I can make a difference, and why even try? Again, that internal dialogue, the meaning, what meaning am I applying to this?
Jeff Gorter: [00:07:07] Because that will influence my trajectory either up or down from here. So, I need to pay attention to what my body is saying, I need to pay attention to what my mind is saying, and I need to pay attention to what’s going on around me. Again, we are talking about this in a workplace setting, and so rarely are we alone. I am part of a work group. I am part of a team. I am part of a company or I’m part of a community.
Jeff Gorter: [00:07:36] And so, I don’t have to view it as if I’m doing it alone. I can begin to tap into the resources and the common strength that we have as a team, as a work team, a work group, or as a company. And I can begin to look at, how are we pulling together? I can notice those small moments when we’re rising above it and I can celebrate the victories step by step. Not that we make it all go away in one fell swoop, but that we take it step by step, and I am part of a group that is moving towards that. That can reduce the sense that it’s all up to me all the time. It isn’t.
Jeff Gorter: [00:08:20] And then, finally, getting back to the basics. Again, stress management techniques are not rocket science. It’s things that we can do if we stop and take care of the basics, like making sure that we are getting regular food, staying hydrated, trying to maintain sleep schedules as best we can, because stress is physically exhausting. It drains you of energy. And if I don’t take care of the basics, managing those kinds of things, including exercise, I’m going to become exhausted, and that just hampers my ability to manage it or to make better decisions about it.
Jeff Gorter: [00:09:05] And for a lot of people, we’ve all said this, well, I tried this, I tried exercising, it didn’t work, I tried meditation, it didn’t help, I tried prayer, for those who follow a faith perspective, I tried it and it just didn’t work. Well, what we typically mean by that is I tried it once and it didn’t work, so I moved on to something else, which means that I put myself on a constantly rotating trial and error process as if there is one big magic answer.
Jeff Gorter: [00:09:40] There is no one specific answer. What I need to do, it’s what’s called The Rule of &, which is to say, researchers have again found that if I want to make something effective, if I want to have it be a true part of my stress management system, the Rule of & says that if I do something seven times, I have gained familiarity. So, let’s say I’m talking about, let’s say, exercise. I want to go for a walk. I commit to say I want to go for a walk several times a week.
Jeff Gorter: [00:10:23] Now, I need to go for a walk seven times to gain familiarity with how that feels and how that fits into my life and my schedule. I need to do it another seven times to have mastery, where I’m beginning to get into a groove, and I feel like this is beginning to—I feel like I have a greater understanding of how to incorporate this into my stress management. I need to do it another seven times for it to become part of my routine, to become something that I go to reflexively without thinking, as opposed to it being something that I have to make a conscious effort to do.
Jeff Gorter: [00:11:06] And so, whatever the stress management activity that you’re going to do, mindfulness, prayer, journaling, walking, doing a craft, engaging in something else, whatever it is, I have to get past the idea that, well, I tried it once and it didn’t work. What you have to do is commit to doing it basically 21 times. The Rule of 7 says that I need to do it seven to get familiar, another seven to get mastery, another seven to incorporate it as part of my routine, but if I can commit to doing that, I’m going to have much more benefit from those activities.
Jeff Gorter: [00:11:48] And they can be small activities, little things, but if I commit to doing it 21 times, it becomes part of my repertoire and how I handle it. So, again, whatever it is, whether it’s exercise, meditation, prayer, journaling, whatever, I need to do it in a regular basis to really have any benefit. And then, finally, something that is, again, part of COVID is for those of us who are working remotely, for those of us who perhaps didn’t work remotely before, but now find myself in a long range plan, where that’s going to be the case, controlling what you can control, minimizing the disruptions.
Jeff Gorter: [00:12:32] We’ve all kind of become accustomed to, and we all sort of laugh and have a knowing nod and a knowing grin when a dog starts barking in the background or a cute toddler wanders through in the back. And so, that’s become a regular part, but I don’t think we realize that those are also things that add to our stress. So, being able to control what you can control to try and minimize those disruptions, because that just adds to that sense of cumulative stress, and doing those things we can to exert a level of control. Now that we are two years into it, we know we can do that in a way that doesn’t make it distracting and frustrating, and add more to my stress pile.
Shane McNally: [00:13:23] The past few years, I think we’ve seen a shift in how stress has impacted each other. Whether you’re working fully remote, fully in office or with a hybrid situation. Stress can affect us all in different ways. If you or your employees are feeling significant impacts with stress, you’re not alone. R3 Continuum can help. Connect with us and learn about our services at www.r3c.com or email us directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
R3 Continuum (R3c) is a global leader in workplace behavioral health and security solutions. R3c helps ensure the psychological and physical safety of organizations and their people in today’s ever-changing and often unpredictable world. Through their continuum of tailored solutions, including evaluations, crisis response, executive optimization, protective services, and more, they help organizations maintain and cultivate a workplace of wellbeing so that their people can thrive. Learn more about R3c at www.r3c.com.
R3 Continuum is the underwriter of Workplace MVP, a show which celebrates the everyday heroes–Workplace Most Valuable Professionals–in human resources, risk management, security, business continuity, and the C-suite who resolutely labor for the well-being of employees in their care, readying the workplace for and planning responses to disruption.