Get Reworked Podcast: What Microstress Is Doing to Our Work and Our Lives
When we hear the word "erosion" we tend to think of nature: water erosion, soil erosion, wind erosion. But much like the natural elements, daily stressors can wear us humans down too.
In this episode of Get Reworked, Karen Dillon and Rob Cross, co-authors of the book "The Microstress Effect: How Little Things Pile Up and Create Big Problems — and What to Do about It," discuss how the incremental stresses we absorb every day are impacting our performance at work, our relationships and our lives.
Listen: Get Reworked Full Episode List
"It just means that none of us are able to be our best selves. And we accept that we don't even think there's an alternative. That's what Rob's talking about those interviews. The high-performers were successful from the outside perspective, but they a lot of them were hanging on by a thread internally, and that cannot be the best performance," said Karen.
Highlights of the conversation include:
- What high performers do differently to manage and mitigate microstress
- How we're all having our frog in the boiling water moment
- The three categories of microstresses
- How our workplace habits are adding to microstress
- What managers can do to minimize microstress for themselves and their teams.
Plus, host Siobhan Fagan talks with Rob and Karen about how our networks are part of the solution and how sometimes you just have to rise above. Listen in for more.
Have a suggestion, comment or topic for a future episode? Send it to [email protected].
- The book: "The Microstress Effect: How Little Things Pile Up and Create Big Problems — and What to Do about It."
- Karen on LinkedIn
- Rob on LinkedIn
- Karen's website
- Rob's website
- Rob's previous Get Reworked podcast episode
Note: This transcript has been edited for space and clarity
Siobhan Fagan: Today we're here to talk about a topic that I think pretty much everyone can relate to. It's about the stress in our lives and in our workplaces. Except it's not the kind that you think you know, they're actually microstresses.
My guests today just came out with the book, "The Microstress Effect: How Little Things Pile Up and Create Big Problems — and What to Do about It." And this was written by Rob Cross and Karen Dillon.
Rob is the Edward A. Madden Professor of Global Leadership at Babson College, and he is also the director of Connected Commons.
Aside from The Microstress Effect, he's also the author of "Beyond Collaboration Overload," a book that we had him on the podcast to discuss before.
Karen is the former editor of Harvard Business Review, and she is the co-author with Robert of the Microstress Effect. Karen is also co-author of three books with Clayton Christensen. And I am so happy that they are here today to talk about this topic.
So let's Get Reworked.
Welcome to the podcast, Karen and Rob.
Karen Dillon: Thank you so much.
Rob Cross: Thank you so much for having us.
'Regular' Stress vs. Microstress
Siobhan: So, you both recently wrote the book, "The Microstress Effect: How Little Things Pile Up and Create Big Problems — and What to Do about It."
And I guess the first question that I have for you is, how do we tell stress apart from micro stress?
Karen, can you start us off?
Karen: Sure, that's a good question. I think we all know and recognize stress in our life, it's often caused by a major traumatic life event or sickness, losing a job, something significant and big that other people can see and have empathy for. And or sometimes caused by a 'bad guy' (air quotes) a toxic relationship, a really extremely difficult boss, things like that. We all know and recognize and have empathy for each other with stress.
Microstress is really different and it's insidious. It happens in such small increments in small moments, in the course of everyday interactions in our life, that our brains barely register them. But our bodies know some stress has happened to us, and we don't even process that is happening. So micro stress is caused by the interactions we have with some of the people we're closest to in a normal course of the day. But it adds up to being a significant source of stress, just like more conventionally recognized forms of stress.
Siobhan: Honestly, it sort of sounds like oh, this is just daily life. But we're gonna dig a little deeper, to get into how this separates from the ideal daily life.
Rob: To your point, that's a little bit of the insidious nature of it, right? We're all conditioned to just get over each of these things. None of them are mountains, right? They're small obstacles.
But what Karen has been able to find through a lot of the neuroscience side of this is that our bodies absorb the stress in ways that, you know, we end the day exhausted, and yet our brains haven't registered in terms of a fight or flight response at different points. And so physically, we're exhausted, but we can't quite put a finger on what just happened, primarily because of that, right? Because they all seem like just things that we should fight through, versus things that we could actually adapt and have a pretty remarkable impact on our lives if we were thinking about how do we shift, you know, some of these negative interactions, versus doing things that just help us persist through day in and day out over time.
Siobhan: Yeah, that's a great point. And I think that perhaps I just revealed more about my own life than I thought I was by saying this is daily life.
So the first line of the book really struck me because it said, We didn't set out to write this book, which is not usually how a book starts.
And Rob, I'm hoping that you can discuss a little bit about why this book now, and could you have written this book 20 years ago?
Rob: I definitely believe so, I believe now is different because of the hyper-connected nature of our lives. And the degree to which we're spending time on emails, meetings, the interactions we have with our families over IM and other applications, believe that's definitely escalated, because these stressors, as Karen said, are coming to us through the connections in our lives, right. And so they're actually magnified in different ways.
If you dislike somebody that stressor is magnified more than just bad news on TV. If you love somebody, a child, a parent, you know, people you care about, that stress is magnified. So I do believe that there's a volume of the interactions that's really accelerated over the past decade or so that's had a big impact.
But to answer your question, we started down the path of looking at just how do relationships have a positive impact on our well-being. And what we were continually hearing over and over and over again, were people hitting these stretches in their lives where they went on three, five, sometimes eight years. And what's suddenly wake up and say, I'm not the person I wanted to be, right. This is not how I intended to live my life. And it wasn't ever one big moment, right? That was the thing that really got attention early on, you'd actually ask people, how did this happen, and half the time, they couldn't even tell you. I don't know how I got there, you know, in that stretch.
And it was very apparent after a while that it was the accumulation of a small that was killing people, the things that drew our prior conversation you just think you should work through, right? It's what high-performers do. It's what successful people do. But the accumulation of them over time, was what was becoming debilitating. And so that really led us down a path, in part, to understand where are these forms of stress coming from, you know, and how can we make them actionable and tractable for people, but then also to understand the small population that really seems to rise above it, and is living life in a different way today to take some lessons from them as well.
Siobhan: I definitely want to get to the "what to do about it" part of the book title.
But you just mentioned that this was specific to what high-performers and successful people do. And a I want to see what the expectations are in terms of stress and high-performance. Again, I think that there's an expectation that a certain amount is acceptable. But where does this line get drawn?
Rob: It's a great question. It's obviously very personal for different people, I think, and what I worry about going through ultimately, hundreds and hundreds of interviews were the first 10 minutes of each of these, because these were all people that were very conventionally successful, we split the sample between men and women, top organizations out there, every single interview, the first 10 minutes was rainbows and lollipops. You know, life is great, you know, this is going on, it's all wonderful. By minute 30, the cracks start to come in a 45, 60. You know, you're wondering how they're holding their lives together, for most of them.
And so to me, the stories that I thought were great were people that pivoted in their lives, and they just decided to live differently in ways that help fulfill them. The stories I hated hearing, were when you get to some of these people that were 60-65 years old, at the tail end of a career, conventionally very successful top organizations out there. But their personal narrative was horrendous. They'd be telling stories of multiple divorces, children they didn't talk to, health issues. And then the craziest thing was that they would almost universally say I would do it again. Right? It's been hard, but I would do it again. And you look at that, and you're like, really? You know, you don't say that in the interview, of course.
But part of it is a defense mechanism, right. And part of it is some people legitimately that is how they thrive purely through work and the adrenaline from the stress. But for a whole bunch of other people it's because they didn't see what could have been, and they didn't step off and make decisions that could have led to a different outcome, to the point of your question.
Siobhan: And I think that the timing of this book is quite interesting in that well-being for all of us, while it's all really sort of simmered below the surface definitely came to the fore over the last few years. And throughout the book, there's a couple of different points where you point to this phenomena that you've identified as a crisis. It's a crisis of well-being, it's palpable crisis of well-being today, it was in a few different points.
So I was hoping that you could talk about what the long-term effects are. You've talked a little bit on the personal level, but what is the impact on say, just business outcomes. And Karen, I was hoping you could speak to that?
Karen: Well, at a really sort of high level, you can assume that if none of us are actually aware of the fact that we are no longer performing at our best we think we are, you know, you talked about in the beginning of being just everyday life, we're the frog in the boiling water, right, we're sort of accepting more and more pressure and more and more lack of quality of life and work, we're not going to be our best selves for work, or in our home life or in our friendships, it's definitely just lesser versions of ourselves.
And the key thing here is that we don't notice it, we just kind of keep adding more responsibility. high-performers do assume that I have to just steel myself to take it, I just have to get stronger, I have to develop more internal grit. And we pour more and more, you know, micro stresses and small doses still add up to a cup that's overflowing with stress.
It just means that none of us are able to be our best selves. And we accept that we don't even think there's an alternative. That's what Rob's talking about those interviews. The high-performers were successful from the outside perspective, but they a lot of them were hanging on by a thread internally, and that cannot be the best performance.
Siobhan: So I want to start getting into the nitty gritty of these microstresses that you have identified. You pick out 14 different microstresses and I don't want to cover all of them, but you sort of categorize them into three broad areas — you have capacity draining, you have emotion depleting and you have identity challenging.
And I was hoping that perhaps you both could talk about these three different areas. What it looks like and maybe just start in with some of the ideas of how that person could turn that section around.
Capacity Draining Microstress
Rob: Sure. So I can tackle maybe the first one, and we can go from there a little bit.
For us, what we were finding, again, is it was the small moments each day that were hitting people and causing challenges. And so under the capacity draining, what we saw, there were interactions that just depleted our ability to get done what we had to get done, right, whether that was at work or at home, and you're experiencing stress in those moments, because you're either having to work harder, you know, deeper into the night and ignoring things that you should be doing with others or your family, or you're underdelivering, right, each of which creates stress.
And they take very subtle forms. So there were five that were related to capacity draining, I'll just grab one, which is small misses from colleagues around you. So part of the challenge of today is that we're not on just one team, we may be formally assigned to one team, but most people around five, six, seven collaborative efforts, right, and if you happen to own one with four other people, and because they're on five or six other efforts too, they show up to yours, maybe 95% done right, each of those people for people 95% There, they all seem like small misses, right?
But what it does is it accumulates to 20% on you, because of the interdependent nature of the work, and not because people are nefarious, you know, over and over again, through these interviews, we heard that work is so demanding today that people are making decisions on which balls to drop a lot of times versus which to excel.
And so the challenge is, how do you in those very small moments, and in the very early stages of those interactions, put in place structure that make sure that expectations are consistent, that delivery is consistent so that this slow, drifting of commitment doesn't cause you problems, right? Because 95% if you just work harder and cover for people, more than likely people will go 90% next time again, not because they're nefarious, but because we're all overwhelmed, and trying to figure out exactly how do you get this done and still, you know, maintain a family in today's times.
Karen, do you want to grab another one there?
Emotionally Depleting Microstress Takes a Physical Toll
Karen: Sure, I'll do the next category we talk about, are ones that deplete your emotions, emotionally depleting.
And what's interesting about this is when Rob just talked about the capacity draining ones, you can sort of see on your calendar on your to do list, it's stuff you have to get done, and you can visually see it, it's overwhelming, but you know what that is, and it's just getting through the day.
The microstressors that deplete your emotions are far more invisible and insidious. And I'll give you a really good example. Those of us who manage or are responsible for other people, that's a microstressor, because just carrying them out and paying attention to the well-being of the people who report to us can become really taxing to us emotionally.
During the pandemic for lots of people, lots of managers, for example, that was a really big source of microstress, because you couldn't see your team in person, you couldn't talk to them casually, we were looking at each other on Zoom calls, we don't have the visual cues that we're used to when we're around people, or it could be just being exposed to second-hand stress is a really great bit of research that says that if any of us are exposed to social stress, within two hours of a meal, our bodies will metabolize a meal we just ate, adding 104, as if we eat 104 extra calories, and that adds up too, every day, if we have that happen, being exposed to social stress, we gained 11 pounds in a year. Just this sort of being around things that deplete our emotional reserves in some way, is really hard on us.
And that's a great example of the toll, of what seems like a seemingly insignificant thing, can take on us in terms of microstress.
Siobhan: I can say Karen that I put maybe about seven or eight exclamation points in the margin next to that fact, because that was really, really surprising to me.
Karen: It's an example of how our brains are not fully processed, we're not really recognizing the microstress that's happening to us or there's a neurological reason for it. It's so small that it kind of happens quickly. It doesn't imprint on our frontal lobe in the same way.
But our bodies are responding to it. So it's still adding up to stress on our, toll on our, bodies. But we don't fully know what's happening to us.
And then Rob, do you want to do the next one?
Identity Challenging Microstress
Rob: I'm happy to jump in. Yeah. So for us that identity challenging is really the small interactions that are slowly shifting us away from who we set up to be in the beginning. And so you'd hear it certainly and very high, for example, revenue pressure context or going through situations where there are layoffs and their decisions that are being forced on people about how to treat employees or others that people did not feel good about.
But it was incredibly common for us to hear the stories in people's lives around having what, I came to call echo chamber moments, right? They were just points where they put in a good chunk of time in a certain organization and felt like they were really part of something big, part of something important, only to wake up and realize that people didn't really care about them, you know, in different ways.
So one woman I'll never forget was describing super successful software organization describing, believing that she'd given her heart and soul for her colleagues at this organization over a three five year period. And then her mother passed away suddenly and nobody showed up at the funeral, right or had any kind of outpouring to her in ways that really shocked her right into saying, Okay, what am I pursuing over time.
I see the same thing with the physicians, right in our groups where there was a very heavy emphasis on believing that you're a physician, because of patient care and the ability to take care of people. And yet, all the pressures, you know, around that role are pushing people into less and less time spent in that aspect of their work.
So what we could see were the people that tended to do better on that front, they were really good at having a great clarity on what their, what we'll call North Star aspirations were what was really critical in their lives, and then putting in various structures to make sure that those things didn't drift over time, right. And if they couldn't get a sense of purpose, and impact in their work, for example, investment banks, a lot of times or some of the consulting firms, they found ways to derive a sense of purpose outside of it, you know, by volunteer work or other things like that.
Turning the Stress Around, an Anesthesiologist's Tale
Siobhan: So Rob, I want to stick with you for a moment because you just mentioned physicians, and you did have a fairly dramatic example, in the book of an anesthesiologist who was working in the hospital had no option to work remote, obviously, at the height of the pandemic. And aside from the very visible external stress, and everything that was happening, was also experiencing this microstress.
But you pointed to him as an actual example of somebody who managed to turn it around. And I was hoping that you could talk a little bit about that example.
Rob: Yeah, absolutely. was super poignant, right? Because he was literally putting people in harm's way, right in the early stages of the pandemic, where there's a lot of uncertainty, right, about how to handle that and absorbing people's fears at night, and feeling the anxiety, right, if all of the stress and the weight of that in different ways.
What we wanted to call out with that example, and really, across the hundreds of interviews we did is we focused in not just on identifying the microstresses, but also in understanding what's the role of relationships in people's lives and being a form of resilience, right. And so we're kind of conditioned to think of resilience as something we own right, we have internal fortitude, or grit or toughness. And that is a bit of a misnomer, right?
If you actually ask several 100 people about difficult stretches in their lives, and not what they did to get through it. But how they relied on others, you find that we have an ability to turn back on others in a really specific ways, right, to to get help and resources, to get empathy in a situation to see a path forward to get perspective that we're doing very important work in that situation. Humor turns out to be a huge source of resilience for certain people.
And so what we're really calling out, without example, was a physician that had this set of resources around him in this case, because of the way he lived his life. And because of the connections he built, that he could fall back on, and get a whole range of things that have a pretty dramatic impact on his well-being through a situation like that.
Karen: One of the details I remember about that example, that was really powerful was that during the pandemic, he felt really clear that his kids were proud of him because he was clearly had purpose in what he was doing. And they knew that he was doing something really important. And that was a little boost of resilience, in addition to all the other things Rob talked about.
Overcoming Stress Starts by Identifying It
Siobhan: I want to talk about this a little bit further, just because you've said that part of the insidiousness of these microstressors is the fact that we can't actually identify them.
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And obviously, part of being able to grow this resilience to be able to counteract them, is to first identify them.
So could you talk a little bit about what, aside from general realizing that you're, you're not feeling great, how do you recognize the microstressors in your life?
Rob: Yeah, you know, I'll describe an idea there. And then I certainly can give you an example from my own life if we want to go down that path.
What we do and have great success with is there's a grid that we built out that just lists the 14 microstressors in one category, down in one column, I'm sorry, and then across the top that grid has where are these things coming from? Right? Where are they hitting you from? And we include the boss, your colleagues, loved ones in your life, people on your team, like all the categories of those that surround us.
And it is really important that these stressors do come from outside of work, right? It's not just the toxic boss. And it's quite often, as Karen said earlier, people that you love and care about, tend to be some of the greatest forms of stress.
But we get great success with using that as a device and having people go through that grid. And first think about, okay, where are 2, 3, 4 of these that are systemic enough in my life, that I shouldn't be navigating that differently in the interaction, right? I should either change how I'm interacting with someone, increase the time span between when we interact, maybe even get out of the relationship depending on how toxic it might be in those small moments. But that's the first pass through, right where three or four of these are most hitting us and everybody always wants to go more than three or four, right? They want 10, 12 you know in this grid, and then like none of them, if it's everything, it's nothing, you've got to hone in on three or four.
And then the second pass, we have go through it say, well, we're three or four of these, you're causing others, right. And that always catches people off guard. But when we pull with big groups, what we generally find is the microstress we experience in general, we tend to pass on and what the challenge that creates for us as humans, is, I'm very convinced that the stress we create in one instance, often boomerangs back on us in a different form. Right? So you push your child to get better grades, and suddenly they're belligerent a little bit, right? Or you lean on a favorite employee too much, and they start burning out in different ways. And so that's our second pass through right is how do you stop causing it unintentionally?
And then the last pass through is how do you rise above some of this right, that you've just allowed the minutia to grab you too much. And some of this just doesn't matter. And that's really the trick of what we call our 10 percenters was that they invest in life in ways that help them raise them above the minutia in different ways. So we find that doing a pass through it like that actually makes it quite tractable, and gives the ability for people to be very tactical in addressing some of the stresses around them.
How Managers Can Create an Environment That Doesn't Create Microstress
Siobhan: I'd love to talk a little bit more about these 10 percenters who you've identified and was hoping, perhaps Karen, you can share a example because you've raised managers a few times and the stress that is inherent in managing other people so that you are not only responsible for your own work, you are also responsible for others.
Can you share an example of a manager who you spoke with who was identified as a high-performer?
Karen: Sure, we have, again, as a sort of select group of them, but they have similar patterns in how they both recognize kind of the microstressors in their own life, and how they build out this sort of multi-dimensional life in a way that allows them to put it in perspective.
And the good managers, the great managers, we were actually talking to someone the other day, who's actually putting it into his performance reviews, enabling them encouraging them to actually speak up when they are overwhelmed with microstressors that perhaps he's causing, or the work they're doing is causing. The good managers are ones that are cognizant of their own role in creating it for others, and who give their team, the language and license to start identifying when microstressors are kind of bearing down and affecting their performance.
It can be something as simple as agreeing as a group about what are the norms of how we're going to collaborate together. There's a great example in the book of a team that got in a room together and on a whiteboard, wrote across all the forms of collaboration, we do now — emails, Zoom calls, Slack texts, etc. And then sort of went down the left hand side and said, alright, what are the norms we're going to do together to not create extra work for ourselves? We've all been the subject of when you're on a reply to all CC stream that goes on forever, and you're trying to pay attention to am I supposed to be doing something? Did I respond to that? Where did what was the original request? If you change the norms and say, only reply to all if you're adding information to the conversation, only speak in bullet points, no long paragraphs, we don't expect anyone to respond after 8 p.m. at night and not on the weekend, time your emails to go out Monday morning, etc.
There are ways you can enable the conversation to be healthier for your team and for yourself as a manager so that you're not creating microstress, and you're giving people the license to kind of speak up and try to push back on some of them.
Siobhan: I think that's a powerful example. Because a lot of the advice that's very valuable in the book does focus on the individual and what the individual can do to sort of not only stop perpetuating these microstresses, but also reduce them in their own lives.
And being able to see it in action across a team is very helpful. One thing that I was curious about that, though, is you identify this person as a strong manager. And what happens in the instance, where employees are extremely stressed because of the capricious nature of their manager? How can they get that power to manage up? Or is this a case where you have to recognize this as one you have to step away from?
Karen: I was just gonna say one of the tools Rob talked about resilience. And I think that's a really good example of where some of the tools of rising above, that connecting with a number of people can actually help you navigate situations like that.
So for example, developing a network in your organization or outside of your organization that can help be a sounding board for you or can help you understand and put in perspective, as someone who's worked with that person before, or someone who gives you suggestions or courage or tells you you're not doing your best you can do better.
I think there are ways that you can find and harvest the network of people that matter to you in your life that will be helpful to you. Even if you find it challenging to just instinctively manage up, managing up, that's difficult for many of us. But there are a lot of people that you probably already have in your network that you can rely on to be the right kind of sounding board the right kind of helping you build your resilience effectively.
Rob: And we found a lot of time I, I think in this that, you know, we as human beings have more ability to shape what we do and who we do it with. And in history, I believe we don't rely on the weather to eat anymore, or things that are truly uncontrollable to us. But we have a tendency to give that control away, you know, very, very quickly.
And so, for me, one of the things that was interesting about the top people as they were much more likely to be very intentional about what the kind of work they wanted to be doing was and thinking two, three month time horizons, not in a reactive posture of what do I do next week, and my boss is coming at me with a bunch of crazy stuff. But they're actually in a two to three month time window where they're putting in place interactions that are pulling them into work, they want to be doing differently. And so that's not an immediate how do you go to your boss and say, stop it. But it is a way of interacting that pulls you into different work streams that does different things that gives you leverage that has a really big impact.
And if I could say one more, it's just to also keep perspective, all of us have had times where you go through a year or two years of a difficult boss. And I think the lesson I took from the 10 percenters is they didn't allow that to dominate their world entirely. Right? They kept it in perspective. And the way they tended to do that is they were usually authentic parts of groups outside of their profession, almost always, they were authentic parts of two or three groups, and didn't let that slip away. And that started to create perspective, right to say, okay, yeah, this is a difficult stretch, but it is, you know, something that in the context of life overall, is not that big a deal.
And I think that's really, really critical as the lesson for all of us, because these microstresses are doing nothing but accelerating around us. So you can only deal with so many directly, the ability to rise above and not get caught in the minutiae is a pretty important capability, I think, for people going forward.
Siobhan: Yeah, I think it's interesting, because the connectivity in this case is acting in both ways. It's the excessive connectivity, that sort of adding to the microstresses, but at the same time, it is that human connectivity that you're saying is helping us all build our resilience through our networks.
Is Remote/Hybrid Work a Recipe for More Microstress?
Siobhan: I think I would be remiss if I didn't ask this question, and it doesn't come up specifically within the book. But I'm wondering what both of your thoughts are in terms of our current work modes, in that so many of us are working either remotely or working hybrid? So we don't necessarily have those same day-to-day connections with our colleagues. Do you think that this is necessarily a recipe for more microstress? Or is it a matter of just good management again?
And I will leave that open to whoever wants to answer.
Rob: I can say from my standpoint, I think, again, to what I was just saying, I think it's given people more freedom to navigate their lives. And what we could see from really, really large surveys that were done mid-COVID, and people talking about the experiences of work from home is that the responses took two totally different forms. The first category would be people that said, Oh, my gosh, thank goodness, I don't have a two hour commute every single day now. And I'm talking to my significant other my kids like me, I'm eating better. And you think, oh, this is a good thing, right?
And then you go a little further down, you see all these other responses that are the exact reverse direction. And they're saying, Oh, my gosh, the commute was the only time I had to think I'm on calls all day now. You know, I've got to get back in the office. How did this happen? Right.
And the reality is that for that second group, you know, there's a definite reality of more calls and things like that. But at the heart of it is they gave up control of the situation, right. And they allowed things to kind of come in on them in ways that we have seen people are working 5-8 hours more a week, they're on, you know, more fractured kinds of interactions, like meetings now are 30 minutes versus an hour. So we end up with 16 of them versus eight, and all sorts of problems that come with that.
So I think that at one level, the stress has gone up because of those interactions. But then we've also seen people fall out of those groups that keep perspective, the book clubs, the physical exercise groups, other things like that, through social distancing, of course, but finding ways back into that is very much in people's control, right, to have impact. But I think you have to take ownership of the situation a little bit differently and not let things subsume you as much overall.
Karen: I would just add to that, I think that some of the good things about how we were able to work during the pandemic have kind of overgrown in the post pandemic life and we haven't changed some of the habits that were essential to be able to continue working. As Rob said, you know, we have 16 half hour meetings in a given day rather than eight, but also the kind of lines blur between work and life and we can be connected all the time. We can be physically and you know, visual meetings with people all the time. And that sort of was at the expense for so many of us of the other the multi dimensions of your life that being in touch with friends being present in low key informal ways with people that you work with.
I think we have to kind of make some conscious choices to take the best parts of what the pandemic allowed us and showed us could be done, but reintegrate some of the best parts of life before, when we were really well connected with other human beings on a day-to-day basis.
Siobhan: Again, yeah, it's about taking that step back, and being able to see the bigger picture before being able to identify these areas where you're like, oh, this is what I've allowed into my life over these last few years. And now we need to kind of rejigger it.
So I want to wrap up soon, but I was hoping that both of you would be able to share one piece of advice that you would give somebody and I recognize this as a big ask, but one piece of advice that you would suggest somebody who's potentially feeling this microstress, they can take today, to start taking back their own time.
And Karen, I'm gonna start with you.
Microstress Is Real: You Have to Face It to Fight It
Karen: I would just say, to acknowledge that the toll of microstress is real, if you sort of be kind to yourself, acknowledging that something is happening to all of us in our daily life that is grinding us down. And if you don't recognize that it's happening, you're never gonna be able to fight back.
So sort of understanding and having the language and seeing where it's coming from is the beginning to fight back. And I think that's a really important thing.
Siobhan: Rob, do you want to take a run at this?
Rob: Yeah, and for me, I completely agree in the sense that we know the negative interactions have typically three to five times the impact of the positive, and most of social science over the years. And so if you're not doing things that are proactive against the micro stressors, and you're just doing mindfulness, or gratitude, or other things that are all great, but they're just helping you persist in the system versus adapting it, you are leaving some of the highest leverage possibilities on the table.
So for me, the most important thing I and everything I'm doing with these ideas on right now is to have at least two and usually three groups are an authentic part of you know, outside of your profession, and not to let that slip, no matter how busy family profession and everything else gets. That, to me is perhaps the most important thing to finding a way to rise above the stresses that are coming at us every day.
Siobhan: Excellent. Well, thank you both so much. Once again, the book is "The Microstress Effect: How Little Things Pile Up and Create Big Problems — and What to Do about It."
Karen and Rob, if people want to find out a little bit more about you, where should they go, Karen?
Karen: Sure. I love to connect with people on LinkedIn. And you can find me on my website, which is karendillon.net.
Rob: Same thing with me for LinkedIn and also my personal website, is robcross.org.
Siobhan: Wonderful. Well, thank you both for joining me today. I hope that the podcast didn't add any micro stress to your life, and I highly encourage everyone to go out and read this book.
Rob: Thank you so much for having us.
Karen: Thank you so much for having us.
Siobhan: If you have a suggestion or a topic for a future conversation, I'm all ears. Please drop me a line at [email protected]. Additionally, if you liked what you heard, post a review on Apple Podcasts or wherever you may be listening. Please share Get Reworked with anyone you think might benefit from these types of conversations. Find us at reworked.co. And finally, follow us at Get Reworked on Twitter as well. Thank you again for exploring the revolution of work with me, and I'll see you next time.
About the Author
Siobhan is the editor in chief of Reworked, where she leads the site's content strategy, with a focus on the transformation of the workplace. Prior to joining Reworked, Siobhan was managing editor of Reworked's sister site, CMSWire, where she directed day-to-day operations as well as cultivated and built its contributor community. Connect with Siobhan Fagan: