I have often discussed the role of the CIO and the importance of decision-making. But there is one topic of being CIO that I have not touched upon and that is the affect of stress.
Stress is the body’s natural reaction to a perceived threat. The basic instinct of the “fight or flight” response. The challenge is that this survival mechanism is a primal response in a modern world. Life for CIOs can be particularly stressful because of the responsibility we feel to make IT succeed in the business; the accountability to management; managing global operations in a 24×7 environment, and the consequences of the decisions we make.
There really are two forms of stress. The good part that makes us push ourselves beyond our limits. We need this stress in order to perform last minute energy rushes to meet deadlines, the adrenaline that gives us the ability to see sharper, hear more and react quicker. On the positive side stress is a source of motivation and a necessary component in our careers. But it is this excessive or prolonged stress that inevitably takes a toll on our health.
As we respond rationally and calmly as possible to stressful situations adrenaline begins to build up. Once or twice is good. However, over a number of months, or years, this can eventually lead to headaches, ulcers, etc as well as other more serious problems – depression, sleeplessness, etc.
I speak from experience. At first I did not realize the stress I was under from work. I suffered from premature graying of my hair, migraines; body aches that eventually manifested into sleeplessness and eventually sever shoulder and back problems. By the time I realized the amount of stress I was under it was too late. The damage had been done. However, I did recognize the fact that I was stressed and took steps to do something about it.
I started by leaving my job at the office at the end of the day. Working 24×7 is not healthy for anyone. Next I focused more on hobbies that made me happy outside of work, such as golf and gardening. I made more of an effort to schedule my time to do these activities. It was my mental break. And finally I spent more time with my family. I cannot say enough about this and how it has help me deal with my stress.
Stress is all around us and there is very little we can do to escape from it. As professionals we have to recognize it and deal with it appropriately.