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a blog by Chris Barrow

How stressed are you?

During March I took possession of a Garmin Fenix 5s running watch and have been using the wearable technology and the accompanying iPhone application to measure various fitness monitors.

Almost a month’s data has now been recorded and it is revealing some very interesting information. For example, in the last 7 days:

  1. average resting heart rate 44bpm

  2. average steps 15,744 per day

  3. average stress level 28/100

  4. average calories burned 2,410

  5. average hours of sleep 6.5 per night

All good apart from the fact that I could do with more sleep – go to bed earlier CB!

I’m particularly interested in the stress levels, as so many of my clients tell me that they are stressed and I’m fascinated by what causes that.

The medical experts tell us that a limited amount of stress is good for us as the amygdala is designed to generate those “fight or flight” chemicals that sustained us for the first 2.5 million years of our evolution.

No stress can be a negative influence leading to lethargy.

Too much sustained stress is what causes “burn out” (not hard work – that just makes you tired).

I’ve been looking at what I’m doing when my stress level moves over 30/100.

As I don’t drive a car, we cannot put that down to frantically giving the finger to all the “other idiots” or punching the steering wheel as brake lights appear ahead and to the horizon.

I’m not a commuter, so it isn’t South East Rail telling me that the 07:00 from Guildford to Waterloo has been cancelled due to industrial action.

I don’t have to manage a team (other than the superb Team CB – Phillippa and Kim, who require none), so the stress isn’t as a result of the behaviours of the people on the payroll.

My clients are a joy to work with, it works because we “get” each other, so there are no heart-sink appointments in my calendar.

So when do I get stress levels of 30+?

Answer: too much work to do and not enough time.

I’ve been doing this a long time now, so when I fire up the Macbook in The Barrow Bunker or a hotel bedroom, I can see instantly what my workflow is going to be for the day – and intuitively know whether there is more work than hours available.

That’s when my resting heart beat rises and the anxiety kicks in.


  1. I can hear Phillippa advising me to “stop saying YES” to every opportunity that comes along – there is wisdom in that;

  2. Prioritise – in the event that not everything is going to get done, A, B, C the list and make sure that the A’s get done;

  3. Delegate – we mentioned this last week when discussing leadership – to delegate effectively is an art as well as a science;

  4. Manage expectations – your own and other people’s – around what you can achieve and by when.

I have an overwhelming task list in front of me this morning – absolutely no hope that I can get it all done before I board a train for Nottingham at 17:00, ready to be visiting lecturer at tomorrow’s finance day on The Campbell Academy Year-Long Business Course.

As I’m writing this blog at 06:15, my heart rate is 63 and stress level 22 – largely because in composing this piece, I’ve reminded myself that even if it doesn’t all get done the world will not come to an end.

I’ll be doing the A’s first today – that’s the best that any of us can do.

I thought the Garmin watch was going to useful for running and cycling – it is becoming an important self-coaching device, giving me valuable insights into the things I do that are good and bad for me.

Every day now, I’m measuring my health numbers.

Tomorrow I will spend the day using Excel spreadsheets to show Principals and Managers how to measure the financial health of their businesses – that also reduces stress hugely.

No performance without accountability, no accountability without measurement.

With measurement – reduced stress.

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