All of us worry – it’s human! But for some of us, worrying becomes a pervasive part of our life taking up unnecessary emotional and mental bandwidth. Worry is defined as negative self-talk – especially about things that might happen in the future. The stress and pressure of balancing so many aspects of life (work, home, boss, spouse, kids, in-laws, health…) can lead one to become a full-time worrier.
Most of us know friends or colleagues who are, or have become, ‘worriers’ and our advice to them is ‘Don’t worry’. Unfortunately, this advice doesn’t work because a worrier CAN’T stop worrying. The physical impact of this uncontrollable worry includes muscle tension, restlessness, difficulty in concentration, irritable bowl syndrome, cardiac events, and interpersonal problems to name a few.
Worriers are like COWS – they keep on ruminating! Rumination is a negative, repetitive thinking pattern about present and past issues, loss, or failure; it is a continual attention to the negative aspects of one’s life events. It’s hard to just stop it, because like a stuck record, the thoughts keep on playing. The more one ruminates the more it feeds to increased stress, anxiety and feeling blue. Unfortunate events happen in each person’s life causing pain and anxiety in the moment; but the RUMINATOR keeps the pain and anxiety alive, long after the stressor is gone, by continually thinking about the negative impact of the event.
Sure, there is truth in the way life can really set us back – but the RUMINATOR then makes it his/her identity and uses it as a defense mechanism to stop moving forward. It moves to a maladaptive zone, especially if one starts withdrawing from friends and social events, stops doing hobbies and activities, avoids going out and so on. Rumination (a fancy word for continual worry) seems to have a causal effect on stress, depression and other emotional disorders because it directly increases and maintains negative emotions. These are the danger signs that the worrier might be struggling with a general anxiety disorder.
So how does all this impact Project Deadlines, Quality and Business Performance? Simply put, research demonstrates that rumination takes up emotional and mental bandwidth in the brain’s processing systems. This reduces a person’s attention span and energy to do quality work, because resources are being consumed in the rumination process. Even if the person puts in a super human effort to concentrate, it will work in the short term, but lead – very soon – to exhaustion and fatigue. This is reflected as sick days, errors at work, strained relationships, and unhealthy coping strategies (eating, smoking, drinking endless coffee or sugar drinks). Look around you and see how common this is! (Look in the mirror…?)
The main point is that there is an impact on workplace performance and senior leaders cannot afford to ignore emotional or mental health issues of the people they work with. Ignoring it or hoping that it will go away is not the best tactics. Neither will hoping that people will get over it and get their act right. They will! Eventually. But not without impacting current work place performance.
So, what do? Research suggests that solution-focused executive counseling can give good results in supporting people deal with emotional and mental issues in as little as eight sessions. Encourage someone you know who might benefit to reach out to us. Or, you might to reach out for yourself!