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Walking in the rain with my trusty pooch, contemplating “What do I miss most about working in a highly stressed, ever-changing, and endlessly demanding work environment”?
Early answer? “Nuthin! Nope; not a gosh darn thing.” was my first thought. But the truth is, at times, I do miss the camaraderie, the challenges, and the creative energy – but oh, there is a price to be paid!

Renowned psychiatrist Edward Hallowell refers to a newly recognized neurological phenomenon he has coined “ADT” or Attention Deficit Trait to describe what an “organizational hyperkinetic environment can create for many of today’s executives, directors and managers.” According to Dr. Hallowell, the core symptoms are distractibility, inner frenzy, and impatience. People with ADT have difficulty staying organized, setting priorities, and managing time. These symptoms can undermine the work of an otherwise gifted employee.

Are you employed in any of today’s high-pressured work environments and wondering what this might mean for you?

If you are persistently pressured and feeling frantic by constant demands, deadlines, never ending projects and an overload of information, your brain may begin to function as if you actually had ADD – creative energy is sapped, focus, follow through, and time management and decision-making skills are compromised. Inevitably, as performance and productivity declines, worry, guilt and fear begin to take hold. Enthusiasm and enjoyment for the work you do and the life you live may drop off. This does seem like quite a price to pay!

Many professionals are struggling mightily just to survive the demands and pressures that a frenetic work environment creates, rather than thriving in their roles. Opportunities for advancement may dwindle if performance declines. Heck, forget advancement, it may be a struggle just to keep your current position.

There may be few opportunities to breathe and regenerate, and yet, this is an absolute necessity for one’s mental, physical and emotional well-being.

The good news is that there are ways to improve your ability to manage the chaos and external and internal frenzy.

ADD is considered to be a neurological disorder with a genetic connection. ADT, however, is reported to be an environment driven condition. The assumption would be that, efforts to control the environment, or the ways one can protect against the environment, would lead to improved functioning within that setting.

According to Dr. Hallowell, meaningful human contact is one of the key factors in managing a stressful and hectic working atmosphere, and thus ADT. He suggests connecting with someone you like and trust every four to six hours during the workday.

Setting some quiet time for thinking or planning during the day/week can render huge benefits. Try to arrange a daily “distraction free” time zone that blocks reading/returning emails, checking texts or voice mails, and surfing the web. Be aware of things that support your best work such as, listening to music while you work, staying in motion while you perform critical thinking, a few moments of meditative breathing, consulting with a trusted peer etc.

Identify the time of day that you are most productive and utilize this time to focus on priorities. Some people can only work optimally in spurts of 10-15 minutes others are able to be highly productive for an hour or more. Use the time that works best for you to your advantage rather than trying to force a size 11 foot into a 8 shoe.
You will ultimately be more productive and far less frustrated.

Break large or complicated tasks into smaller manageable parts.

Always ask for clarification on priority assignments.

It is important to learn not only how to survive stressful work environments, but to thrive in them. There are the typical suggestions that encourage regular exercise, a healthy diet and maintaining a sufficient sleep cycle. These are “no brainers” that typically get lost once the hectic pace begins on Monday morning. This is unacceptable if you are working to clear a path towards success and emotional health and well-being.

Constant demands on performance and never ending pressure will take their toll on anyone eventually, whether it be physical, emotional or both. I challenge you to follow the career of any professional sports manager or coach for an example of the effects of unceasing pressure.

There are many professionals who make significant changes, which allow them to thrive in their careers even under persistent pressure and stress. They learn how to maintain healthy routines and manage the demands more effectively. There are others who thrive because they decide the harmfulness of the environment is not worth the potential rewards. They seek a work setting that is move conducive to their overall happiness. Either path is ultimately preferable to the daily onslaught of worry, self-doubt, fearful anticipation and dread.

If you feel your work setting might be contributing to increased pressure and performance and management difficulties that are linked to this concept of ADT, it might be time to consider new actions and solutions.

You can start with something as simple as taking time to identify and list all of the current working conditions and expectations that are contributing to increased worry, distractions and performance difficulties. Once completed, you will have an opportunity to identify an initial target. Then, the work of making significant changes begins.

Successful outcomes most often require a goal and a plan of action. So think it, write it and say it as you begin. Know what you are capable of doing on your own and what you will need help with.

It may be wise to consider a working partner such as a coach, counselor or mentor. Someone who can help you to identify and implement strategies and develop habits that are beneficial and conducive to desired change.

As I always say, “Why go through it alone if you don’t have to?”