Stress vs. Distress

Distress  (c)2009 Randy D. Bosch

Distress (c)2009 Randy D. Bosch

Systems require healthy stress to function well or at all, whether that stress is found in properly maintained pressure, tension or compression.  Yes, stress, and those systems include you and me.

“Stress” is, unfortunately and incorrectly, used as a synonym for “distress”.  Distress is not a healthy reaction of a system to demoralization, imbalance, excess or lack, rotting, malnourishment, aimlessness, erosion – to diseases of falsehoods, delusions, demands, deadlines and unhealthy aspirations. 

Stress (not distress) is essential in all key systems, as briefly illustrated by a few examples:

Cardio-vascular system:  Healthy stress is a healthy blood pressure – no pressure, no pulse, no life!

Car tires: Healthy stress is a properly inflated tire – low pressure, poor performance, short life!

Plants: Healthy stress is a well-functioning capillary system – no capillary action, no circulation, no life!

Oceans: Healthy stress is a cleansing tidal action – blocked tides, blocked cleansing, dead sea!

I am sure that you can add many examples to this list from your experience and simple observation of the world around you!  Faith vs. fear; Good things vs. too much; balance vs. imbalance; moderation vs. gluttony; and, on and on.

In our work and our “organizational lives” (talk about Artificial Intelligence!), healthy stress is a great asset to innovation, creativity, productivity, outstanding teams, great design, and outstanding customer service. 

Create an “Assets & Liabilities” worksheet, with the columns titled “Stresses & Distresses”, instead.  Be truthful with yourself as you add to each list from your personal life, your relationships, your environment, and your work.  Next, correlate related stresses and distresses where possible (some may have multiple correlations – a flashing warning light!), and then consider how you can adjust the pressure, tension or compression in the systems involved to restore them to or keep them at a healthy stress level! 

This simple exercise may help you correct errors in what you do, and return your efforts to a proper path.  Just one caveat as you undertake this task,

Don’t “distress” out about it!



About randysrules

From a professional background in architecture, community and regional planning, urban design, leadership, and fine arts, this blog provides insights on ethics, leadership, architecture/planning/urban design, Venice, and whatever intrigues me at the time. Enjoy!
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