strength rocksWhat Is It?

We’ve explored the topic of Stress in previous articles (Stress 101, Stress 102, Burnout), so what’s new about Strengths-Based Stress Management? Strengths allows me to embrace what is unique about me while at the same time, gaining understanding and appreciation for what is unique about those I live and work with. Looking at stress through the lens of Strengths can be a significant and creative approach for effective management, both for myself and those I care about.

The first step toward effective stress management is a deeper understanding of what stress is and how it works physiologically. Second, in order to develop a personal strategy to effectively navigate it I need to explore what kinds of things are specifically stressful for me and then third, discover what uniquely helps me to de-stress. Understanding our Strengths provides clues to these last two steps.

What causes stress is different for everyone. Gallup’s Strengths assessment, now known by the name, Clifton Strengths, offers 34 different ways to look at what might cause stress or what might allow for de-stressing, and it can be surprising to realize how the same situation can have such a different impact on different people.

For example, among the 34 themes identified by Gallup’s Clifton Strengths Finders, consider a comparison of the themes called “Consistency” and “Individualization”.

People who are especially talented in the “Consistency” theme feel most confident when there are clear expectations that are predictable and even handed from their perspective; they like standard operating procedures and a consistent environment in which the rules are clear and applied to everyone equally. Therefore, they may experience stress in situations where this clarity is lacking or in circumstances that demand unique responses for different people.  In these situations, awareness can help to make sense of the stress they experience and help point toward potential solutions. When possible, to de-stress they can ask for help in understanding the rationale for the individualized approach.  They can intentionally reframe what consistency looks like in the midst of ambiguity. And they can learn when it may be best to step aside and allow other people to take the lead when a more customized or contextualized approach is most beneficial.

Alternatively, consider those who are high in the “Individualization” theme and are especially talented in seeing and responding to the unique qualities or potentials of each individual person or situation. They may experience stress in exactly the opposite way that a person high in “Consistency” would – it may be stressful for them to be in situations that require strict adherence to pre-determined processes and guidelines, or when efficiency doesn’t allow for this customized consideration of each person or circumstance. In these cases, they may look to de-stress by intentionally maximizing even small opportunities to customize within the context of adherence to standard procedures. It may be helpful for them to expand their vision to take in the bigger picture. This could provide perspective regarding the benefits in a specific situation of standard procedures, maybe for the larger group or longer term.

Each of the 34 themes identified in Clifton Strengths can provide these insights for what causes stress and, then what might be done to de-stress.

Why it matters

  • Compassion – when I look at my own stress response through the lens of my Strengths, it helps to make sense of what I’m experiencing. I can then shift from frustration with myself and a potential loss of confidence, and instead, exercise self-understanding. I can be more gentle with myself. In addition, I can come to be more understanding and compassionate with those I care about when I learn about their Strengths and the Stress implications.
  • Stress Strategies – This awareness can open opportunities for the development of my own personal stress strategy. This reduces the surprise factor of stress, which will greatly increase my resilience and capacity for recovery. Imagine the implications when I take this into daily life my family and work teams.
  • Conflict Resolution – when I’m stressed, I’m especially vulnerable to conflict due to an increased perception of threat. I lose objectivity and the potential for peaceful resolution is decreased. By bringing objective understanding to my stress experience, I can de-personalize my response, which offers a great opportunity for resolution.
  • Intentional Choice – by knowing my specific stressors and de-stressors, when I do have opportunity to choose, I can predict those environments in which I’m most likely to thrive and those I might find more stressful.

What can we do about it?

Awareness, Awareness and Awareness!!!

  • Know Your Strengths: Take the Strengths Finders Contact me to get a code and instructions, or go to the Gallup website and purchase a code online.
  • Get Coached: An experienced and qualified Strengths Coach can partner with you to discover your Strengths-Stress connection and then design strategies and action steps to help manage it. There are several people on the Asia-Pacific region who are fully certified to coach in Strengths and are willing to engage in a discovery conversation with you. Contact me to get connected with a coach. Because the Asia Pacific Region prioritizes you and ‘Member Care’, if you are part of the Asia Pacific Region, this is offered to you free of charge.
  • Track your Stress and De-Stress patterns. Consider what is going on when you feel stressed and observe any patterns you see. How might these be explained through your Strengths? Experiment with intentional personalized de-stress responses and track your success. Share your observations with a trusted friend and ask what they see.

Previous articles in the Strengths series: Part 1: The Big Picture, Part 2: Discover Your Energy,Part 3: Powerful Partnerships and Teams , Part 4: Sometimes They Help; Sometimes They Hinder

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Upcoming topics: Strengths-Based Grace


A deeper exploration of each of the 34 Talent Themes:

The Clifton StrengthsFinder Technical Report: Development and Validation

Asia Pacific Strengths Coaches:

Gallup Certified Strengths Coaches: Harmon Schmelzenbach; Cindy Schmelzenbach

Strengths Champion Certified Coaches: Kafoa Muaror; Gail Dooley

Nazarene Strengths Institute Strengths Coach: Ingrid Lustana

If you are a certified Strengths Coach or are interested in training to become a Strengths Coach and are willing to provide coaching to your Asia Pacific team members, let me know!

Cindy Schmelzenbach is the Asia-Pacific Regional Member Care Coordinator