As a leader, you recognize that self-regulation is a key component to your success. What happens when you can’t keep your cool? When the cumulative effect of extreme stress has caused you to be uncharacteristically short-tempered? If our brains were computers, you’d describe the behavior change as “glitchy”.
My colleague Madeleine Homan Blanchard has created a image and set of distinctions to help you identify and resolve your situation. I highly recommend reading her entire article, but I’ve excerpted pieces of it below.
She’s organized them from “simple fix” to “could be very serious”:
A toleration is a teeny thing you are putting up with. One or two are fine—but when they start to accumulate, they can become a huge drain on your energy. Think of a toleration as a little pebble. One pebble in your pocket is not a problem. Even five would be fine. But twenty-five or more would cause a real issue.
Something has changed in your life and you’re pretending it’s OK when, in fact, it isn’t.
So what has changed? Anything? Have you moved your home? Separated from your spouse? Lost a beloved dog? Sent a kid off to college? Are you having an argument with a neighbor? Here is a link to a questionnaire to help you to assess potential changes you might be dealing with and their impact on stress levels.
3. Emotional Illiteracy
Susan David has done wonderful work on what she calls Emotional Agility. Her research supports the concept that the more we do the work to both understand what we are feeling and label it accurately, the better able we will be to express it and defuse the power of it. She offers all of her talks as well as a very cool quiz on her website.
4. Lack of Self Care
The pre-frontal cortex (PFC) is a resource hog, it needs a constant supply of glucose, rest, sleep, exercise, and hydration. If you have too much going on, are making too many decisions, aren’t taking proper breaks, aren’t eating so your blood sugar is too low, aren’t sleeping enough, or are otherwise failing to take care of yourself, your brain will start to show the wear and tear.
Causes of burnout are varied and there is a disagreement about what it really is. It can be hard to pinpoint. Common causes are boredom, too much responsibility without corresponding authority, lack of autonomy, or no opportunity to achieve mastery.
6. Extreme Stress
This could be a combination of denial and emotional illiteracy supported by a culture that supports keeping a stiff upper lip and not complaining when things get hard. Take this stress assessment and see whether you are, indeed, dealing with extreme stress. And let us not forget that we are all living in a period of plague and civil unrest that might be affecting you more than you are admitting to yourself.
7. Medical Issue
It is possible that you have some kind of health problem that is subtle but is wearing you down. If none of the above possibilities resonates, it would be smart to make a doctor’s appointment and get a full physical.