How’s Your GAS?

Everyone knows that everyone’s GAS is a little different, and today we’re going to talk about how you can become more aware of your own GAS and use it in a way to make your day a little bit easier. GAS is primarily a stress response, it can be, and is, triggered by any degree of stress and any type of stress whether it be good or bad.

But before we get too caught up in GAS, it’s worth taking a moment to explain what GAS really is…G.A.S, stands for General Adaptation Syndrome, what’d you think it stood for? The thing happens when you’re digesting food? General Adaptation Syndrome, more commonly referred to as GAS is not a syndrome, it simply has the word syndrome in its name.

It was first discovered by psychologist Hans Seyle, and that’s all we’re going to say about that. GAS is the combination of physical and emotional responses your body goes through when introduce to stress of any level. GAS is composed of three levels, or phases, level 1 or the reaction stage, level 2 or the resistance stage, and level 3 or the exhaustion stage.

Level 1 GAS the Unexpected Surprise: Reaction

Most stressors (stressful event) that we experience throughout the day come and go so fast that they don’t make it past this stage. An example would be getting surprised by someone sneaking up on you, you react with a shout, your heart rate spikes, and your senses may jump into a temporary state of hyper-arousal. However, the shock of being snuck up on is usually gone in less than a minute.

Just like the reaction stage, which is, as the name suggests, the stage in which your body initially responds to the stressor.

Level 2 GAS the Chronic Offender: Resistance

If the stressor persists past the reaction stage, your body begins to launch its long-term defenses, which essentially involve pulling up reserves of energy to maintain whatever physical and mental state is needed to combat the stressor.

An example that just about everyone can relate to is the morning traffic-filled commute to work. During these commutes you are constantly exposed to two main stressors, the first of which being time, the clock is always against you when you’re stuck in traffic which makes for a very common and very persistent stressor. The second constant stressor is the traffic itself, having to constantly stop and go, and sometimes stop at the last second creates stress on its own as your hopes are repeatedly raised and crushed.

The body’s reactions to this is to enter a state of hyper-awareness, of not only your surroundings but of the impending feeling of doom of being late to work yet again. The cost of maintaining such a high level of arousal is seen in the frustration and anger of being stuck in traffic. Combined with the other stressors this can, and does lead to impaired judgement, unnecessary risk, and in some cases irrational behavior.

Level 3 GAS the Executioner: Exhaustion

The name says it all, your body has used up all of its emergency resources and then some and the stressors still haven’t gone away. Your defenses have fallen away a long time ago and you’re wide open for any infections, colds, flues, diseases, or any other bad guy out there.

Hopefully no one is reaching level 3 on a day-to-day, or even year to year basis. An example of this, and a phenomenon that is on the rise is the development of PTSD. The common thought is that PTSD is triggered by one overwhelming traumatic event, the truth is, it can be triggered by this but it is also triggered by prolonged exposure to chronic stressors, and you don’t have to be in the military to develop it.

Another way to determine if you’ve reached level 3 or not is if your dead. Sadly enough, this stage is also indicated by death, such as starving, or freezing to death.

So what’s the point? GAS is nice but what’s it have to do with me?

Good question, the point is now that you’re aware of the levels of GAS and how it relates to you, you can do something to combat it. The simplest thing to do when confronted with a chronic stressor is to, if possible, set it aside. Often enough just setting aside whatever is stressing you out at work, clearing your head and coming back to it, is enough to eliminate or reduce the stress part of the task.

But what if I can’t put it aside, what if I need to address it here and now?

Another good question and here’s the answer. If you’re confronted with a chronic stressor that you can’t set aside, like your boss demanding to know why such and such failed, or the progress of project x, then the simplest and most immediate solution is to take a mental step back.

No matter how angry or impatient your boss is taking those few seconds to distance yourself mentally will do you both some good. Look at it this way, would you and your boss prefer it if you spit out the first, and probably inaccurate, thing that came to mind, and then had to apologize as you scramble to find the right answer. Or would it be better to take a deep breath, take a step back mentally, get your thoughts in order and provide your boss with the correct answer.

IMHO the answer is obvious.

A note about taking that mental step back, I don’t mean shift your thoughts to something else entirely. What I mean is to take the emotion out of it, get rid of the sense of urgency (deep breaths help here), get rid of as much of the dislike you have toward your boss as possible, get rid of the annoyance at being interrupted, set it aside for later and focus on the facts, the rest will be ready and waiting for you as soon as you’re done.

And if your boss is one of those extremely impatient ones that don’t believe in not being ready 10 minutes ago just politely ask for a second to gather your thoughts. Phrasing it as a question “may I have a second to gather my thoughts,” instead of a statement “give me a second to gather my thoughts,” goes a long way. The question style immediately makes your boss feel empowered, and makes him/her more likely to calm down, and shows them that you’re responsible/mature enough to know your limits and know when you need a second.

In the end, don’t let your GAS get the better of you, cause no one likes to be around someone whose gassy.

Feel free to post what techniques you use to manage your own GAS.


3 thoughts on “How’s Your GAS?

  1. Hi really interesting ! In my blog I’d like to talk about psychology in sports and in particular about talent management… I’m sure it must be stressful recognizing talents and managing them, isn’t it?
    Follow my blog, see you

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