People are increasingly working themselves to death - literally. This has become so common in Japan that an estimated 20% of the workforce is at risk of death due to work stress, which they now call karoshi. The United States has also seen an uptick in stress related problems with the majority of people saying that work causes them stress.
Even with the incumbent problems with stress, when managed effectively it can lead to the opposite effect: it can accelerate performance. The best leaders understand this and are very strategic with stress management. They find ways to reduce it and use it to their advantage.
Mark Cuban recently described how he looks for employees that help relieve his stress. When he finds these employees he considers irreplaceable. As he says, "Anybody who reduces my stress becomes invaluable to me...I never want to get rid of them."
NFL great Aaron Rodgers also recently commented on a different approach to stress reduction. In his case he sought to increase team performance by taking stress off of others. In his words, "I wanted that extra pressure on myself. "If anybody had any nerves or stress or pressure or doubt, just, you know, put it on me. I'm going to play better. And then, in turn, if everybody else is less stressed and feels less pressure, they're probably going to play better too."
In her book and popular TED talk, Stanford professor Kelly McGonigal describes 3 beliefs about stress that will allow you to manage it better:
1) View stress as helpful instead of harmful
2) Believe you can learn and grow from stress
3) Understand you are not unique and everyone deals with stress
That's the thing about stress. It can be a method of destruction or production depending on how you view and manage it. Think of stress as an inverted U on a graph. When you have no stress you have no performance; if stress is too high performance also drops; when stress is at an ideal level and managed effectively, though, performance is optimized. Remember, stress is an individualized factor and what is stressful to one person may not be to another. Your goal, then, it to find the right level of stress for you that will allow you to remain at the top of the inverted U performance curve.