Managing the Stress of Being Left Behind

Welcome to the ongoing discussion of issues in the government workplace at the intersection of leadership and coaching. In my last post I discussed dealing with fear and uncertainty in government which is certainly present given the churn and turmoil around delays in approving federal agency budgets, the stress of the Holiday season, and the increasing number of federal employee retirements.

OPM just reported that for 2011 there is a 24% increase in retirements over 2011. This is the highest rate since records were first kept in 2001. Some people believe that we are just beginning to see the tsunami of retirements forecast several years ago, which were delayed in most part by the collapse of the economy in 2008. If we couple this trend with the increasing level of pressure coming from Capitol Hill on proposed cuts to the federal workforce, extending the pay freeze, and increasing pension contributions, the level of stress resulting from all these uncertainties can be palpable. This is especially true for those who will be left behind.

To be able to thrive and not just survive during these times, one needs to have a set of strategies and practices that are well thought out and operational. Most of us are aware that failing to manage stress can lead to compromising our immune systems which leads to greater vulnerability to illnesses of all kinds.

Bill Bergquist in his article, “Managing the Stress,” discusses how we create “stress ruts” when exposed repeatedly to real or imagined threats. He suggests several tactics and strategies to manage stress so one can avoid, or at least minimize, the “ruts.” Simple strategies of getting more sunlight daily (getting out of our caves), exercising (getting away from our desks and couches), and socializing (getting away from our computers) are discussed. Bill’s article can be found by using the link below to the Library of Professional Coaching, a treasure trove of free resources used by professional coaches who work with leaders in managing their own stress as well as helping others do the same.


Leave a Comment


Leave a Reply

James E. Evans, MISM, CSM

Thanks Gordon. I’m a big advocate of the exercise strategy. The socializing? Eh. I need to work on that one. But, it does have value. Much appreciated.

Dannielle Blumenthal

Exercise, check; socializing, check. Awareness – mostly check but disagree on the permanency of a “stress rut” because I believe you can train your brain, and your physiology follows accordingly.

Gordon Lee Salmon

Thanks Dannielle. I also believe that stress ruts may be healed with good practices as the article suggests. I haven’t seen any research to support this belief, so if anyone can point to recent neuroscience research in this area, please let me know.