Stress has a bad reputation. But not all stress is bad. Some stress can even be good – you just have to be intentional in how you handle it. It’s like going to the gym – we intentionally stress our muscles so that they become stronger.

Mike Preston, Deloitte’s Chief Talent Officer, knows a thing or two about creating a culture for people to unlock their full potential. I spoke with him recently about good stress, bad stress, and keeping bad stress at bay.

Jen Fisher: What’s your view on stress?

Mike Preston: The right kind of stress—in the right amounts—can spur people’s creativity and enhance their performance. The trick is the “right kind” and the “right amounts.” When stressful situations last too long, people often get less productive. And that’s when people can become less engaged and much less happy – and not just at work. It’s important to recognize stress and make sure that you have built in time for recovery.

JF: What role can an organization play in helping their people manage stress?

MP: First, you have to understand what your people are experiencing. Meet them where they are in life’s journey. Do they need more flexibility? Do they need more time with their family after the birth of a child or to take care of a family member? More time away to truly unplug? With calendars full of back to back meetings, it’s important that you have a culture that supports daily recovery as well. Empowering individuals and teams to focus on their unique well-being needs and to support each other can help give everyone peace of mind.

JF: How do you mitigate stress?

MP: I try to stop stress before it starts. I have a morning ritual of quiet reflection. Before I check emails or hop on a conference call, I sit quietly with my latte and take on an attitude of gratitude, and I look forward to starting my day this way every morning over a cup of coffee—it clears my head and gets me focused. Then I start the day on my terms. That helps me feel more in control when the inevitable challenges arrive out of the blue.

JF: What can individuals do?

MP: What works for one person might not work for somebody else. But the bottom line is you want to find what works for you and build habits into your day that can help you get centered, even if only for a few minutes. Start building those habits as soon as you can – by taking a short break for fresh air, stretching, or meditating/practicing breathing. If you work as part of a team—as our people do—then make it a team effort. Maybe instead of going out to dinner together, you meet up for a work out. Or as a team leader, suggest taking a walk together and see the sights of the city you’re working in. Sleep is also really important – try to get eight hours a night.

JF: It sounds like you’re saying to have fun.

MP: That’s part of it, for sure. We all need to recognize when it’s time to take a break. While some stress is good, we need recovery to perform at our best. When our people can be at their best, our clients get our best, and everybody wins.

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  • Jen Fisher

    𝗩𝗼𝗶𝗰𝗲 𝗳𝗼𝗿 𝘄𝗲𝗹𝗹𝗯𝗲𝗶𝗻𝗴 + 𝗵𝘂𝗺𝗮𝗻 𝘀𝘂𝘀𝘁𝗮𝗶𝗻𝗮𝗯𝗶𝗹𝗶𝘁𝘆 | 𝖡𝖾𝗌𝗍𝗌𝖾𝗅𝗅𝗂𝗇𝗀 𝖠𝗎𝗍𝗁𝗈𝗋 | 𝖳𝖤𝖣𝗑 𝖲𝗉𝖾𝖺𝗄𝖾𝗋 | 𝖧𝗈𝗌𝗍 #𝖶𝗈𝗋𝗄𝖶𝖾𝗅l | 𝖳𝗁𝗋𝗂𝗏𝖾 𝖤𝖽𝗂𝗍𝗈𝗋

    Jen Fisher is a leading voice on the intersection of work, well-being, and purpose. Her mission is to help leaders move from the legacy mindset that well-being is solely the responsibility of the individual to the forward-thinking idea of human sustainability, which supports the long-term, collective well-being of individuals, organizations, climate, and society.  

    She’s the co-author of the bestselling, award-winning book, Work Better Together: How to Cultivate Strong Relationships to Maximize Well-Being and Boost Bottom Lines, the Human Sustainability Editor-at-Large for Thrive Global, and the host of the WorkWell podcast series.

    As the first chief well-being officer of a professional services organization, Jen built and led the creation and execution of a pioneering holistic and inclusive well-being strategy that has received recognition from leading business media brands and associations.

    Jen is a frequent writer on issues impacting the workplace today, including the importance of mental health and social connection to workforce resilience, happiness, and productivity. Her work has been featured in CNBC, CNN, Fast Company, Fortune, Inc, Stanford Social Innovation Review, and Harvard Business Review, among others.

    She’s a sought-after speaker and has been featured at events including TEDx, World Happiness Summit, Out & Equal Workplace Summit, Acumen Global Gathering, WorkHuman, The Atlantic Pursuit of Happiness event, and more. She’s also lectured at top universities across the country, including Harvard, Wake Forest, Duke, and George Mason.

    Jen is passionate about sharing her breast cancer and burnout recovery journeys to help others. She’s also a healthy lifestyle enthusiast, self-care champion, exercise fanatic, sleep advocate, and book nerd! Jen lives in Miami with her husband, Albert, and dog, Fiona.

    You can find her on LinkedIn or on Twitter and Instagram @JenFish23. You can also receive her personal insights and reflections by subscribing to her newsletter, "Thoughts on Being Well"