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Building Emotional Fitness to Cope with Stress

Event Highlight


For almost two years, we have been in the midst of a worldwide pandemic. It is natural to feel stress, anxiety, grief, and worry when we do not know how long the pandemic will last or how bad things might get. In November, PMI Toronto's monthly chapter meeting focused on building emotional fitness for managing stress and uncertainty. The evening enriched the concepts of emotional fitness and detailed strategies to reduce strain and anxiety with an understanding of common patterns of stress.

Meet our Guest Speaker

Hans Eckman is the Principal Research Director at Info-Tech, the world's fastest-growing information technology research and advisory company, serving over 30,000 IT professionals. With his resilience and stress-releasing techniques, Eckman has proven that mild ADD, OCD, dyslexia, and other personality disorders can be utilized to jumpstart a successful career. Eckman has shared his life-simplifying tips at conferences throughout the US and Canada. Want to learn more about Scott visit his website, EckmanGuides.com.

Emotional Fitness Matters

Chance favors only the prepared mind. – Louis Pasteur 

Emotional fitness is a foundation for living happier and healthier lives. Emotional fitness is being emotionally and mentally prepared to deal with unexpected circumstances. There are three critical reasons why emotional fitness matters the most. 

  1. It gives us better tools to survive crises and everyday challenges. 
  2. It provides a competitive advantage in handling stress, which eventually translates into personal and professional gain. 
  3. It helps reduce the risk of the long-term impacts of stress and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Psychology and Physiology Reactions to Stress

There are two types of stress responses. They are:

> Short term stress: “Fight or Flight” - Sympathomedullary Pathway (SAM) 

> Long term stress: Hypothalamic Pituitary-Adrenal (HPA) system

Let’s examine what each of these stress responses mean. 

Short-term stress (SAM): SAM is very short-lived usually lasts minutes to hours; when our body diverts all of its oxygen and blood to fight or flight reaction. For example, someone startles you and your body immediately responds.


Long-term stress (HPA): Chronic stress is a prolonged and constant feeling of stress that can negatively affect our health if it goes untreated. There are many consequences of long-term stress such as depression, anxiety, obesity, acne, immune system activation, and so much more. 


We need to move away from this trauma. But how?

Mindfulness to Ease Stress

Mindfulness is an evidence-based approach that offers secular intensive mindfulness training to assist us in coping with stress, anxiety, and depression. Mindfulness is focused awareness. It is an acceptance of reality. It is about being in touch with one's thoughts, feelings, mood, and body condition. So we want to increase our situational awareness and combine that with introspection and acceptance to achieve mindfulness. 


Recognize and React to Threats Appropriately

Cognitive restructuring is a group of therapeutic techniques that help us notice and change our negative thinking patterns. The cognitive restructuring aims to replace stress-producing thoughts with more balanced thoughts that do not produce stress.

The Colour Code of Awareness: What Condition Colour Are You?

Self-monitoring and situational awareness through colour code of awareness is one such technique. This technique helps recognize and react to threats and escalate to the best colour code. There are six different awareness states we should know. Hans walked the participants through each conditional state of colour awareness.

The first is condition White. Condition White is our safe and happy place where one feels relaxed and comfortable. There are no threats and no stress. Condition White is an excellent place where we are just sitting back and not paying much attention to our surroundings or ourselves.

Next, Condition Yellow. The majority of the time, when we are not entirely safe and relaxed, we need to be in this condition. Yellow is still safe and relaxed. In Condition Yellow, we have a standard heart rate. Still, we are conscious about our surroundings, assessing risks or threats, and building this into our general awareness to be prepared and determined if something will push us to the next level. 

The next stage is Condition Orange. Condition Orange activates the SAM pathway. We are getting ready or preparing that we may or may not have to act. SAM has not been fully activated, but we are prepared and aware. For example, we ensure nobody is following us when we walk to our cars in a dark parking lot. We are a little concerned in this state, but we can drop right back to yellow if everything is okay.

However, when we assess a real threat, we go into Condition Red. This is where SAM kicks in at full speed. In this stage, we go into fight or flight. However, as soon as that threat is gone, we want to get back to Condition Orange as fast as possible. Therefore, we know that we have to go back to orange—we are starting to calm down. Then, when things are safe, we want to return to yellow.

Finally, the last stage is Condition Black. It is where one has lost control and all their cognitive abilities and surrendered to the situation; this is the most horrific state.

Leading Through Uncertainty

Techniques For Managing Stress and Uncertainty

Understanding the difference between a threat and volume is a vital technique for stress management. For instance, the volume of work that we perceive is not necessarily the reality of our workplace. One needs to be mindful, sort through things, and determine the volume of real threats, real dangers, and real opportunities. 

A vital step we can take is to unplug from the news and social media. We do not need to be continuously connected. According to Eckman, "Our switching cost is going to ruin our productivity at the very least." Thus, instead of being connected 24/7; one needs to time-box one's social media consumption. Schedule specific times (e.g., 5-10 min) to look through “happy” channels. 

In addition, we can adopt proactive strategies before we experience stress to build up our resiliency, reduce negative consequences, and prepare ourselves for creative problem solving.

Finally, bad things will continue to happen, but we will emerge as leaders by preparing and training ourselves ahead of time during troubling times. We can improve our resiliency using situational awareness, rehearsal, support networks, and social scripts.

So are you ready to exercise your emotions and reduce stress?



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