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The Relationship between Performance, Challenge, Stress and Burn-out

Updated: Dec 22, 2020



This is a slightly adapted version of Hans Selye's stress model.


It shows that...


With no or little challenge, we're bored. We're in the 'rust-out' zone.

We need an element of challenge to get us going.


As the amount of challenge increases, performance increases.

We 'rise to the challenge'.


There's an optimum range of challenge, the area before and at the top of the curve, where performance is high.

This is when we're 'really cooking'.

But it's a fine line...


...past that top point on the curve, the level of challenge begins to outstrip our mental and physical capacity.

We begin to feel stressed.


As more challenge is added, we get more and more stressed and eventually hit the point of no return.

The slippery slope.


We 'burn-out' and we crash. Unable to perform at all.


It's common to think that burn-out happens suddenly. We suddenly break down and wonder what happened.


But this graph shows it's a gradual process that sneaks up on you.


It's the 'final straw that breaks the camel's back' that leads to the fall.


...and that's why it's so dangerous.


One minute, we can be really enjoying the challenge, feeling a great sense of achievement, and perhaps justifying some long hours at work.

And then it begins to feel a bit much.

We start telling ourselves it'll be OK, we'll cope, it'll pass.

We just have to get through the next bit/get over the next hurdle.

But all the time, we're getting closer and closer to the point of no return.

And then 'all of a sudden' we're no use to anyone. Least of all ourselves.


Learn what your signs of stress are and take action when you spot them


Protect yourself from burn-out. Reduce the challenge or increase your mental and physical capacity through self-care and other techniques.


Find out more in my upcoming blog: The ABC of Stress Management.


Or book a free call if you want to explore how coaching can help with the challenge-performance-stress equation.


If you'd like to make sure you see all of my blogs, sign up here for my monthly email.

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