Stress and anxiety is inevitable in a business context. Learning how to cope effectively with it, is a key management requirement.
Perhaps more than any other, it is a subject that is impacted upon by a variety of interrelating factors including: the work environment, business objectives, inter-personal factors and relationships and resource availability.
However, a manager with Asperger syndrome is likely to be more susceptible, and may react more readily to, stressful events and experiences which are more apparent – and unavoidable – in the world of business.
AS involves an inherent feeling of being “different”. This can in itself be a cause of anxiety. Feeling and acting differently to others, and not having other people understand why, can be stressful.
In addition, people with AS have minds that work differently. They tend to be more highly charged in general meaning they have a greater propensity for personal arousal.
This different mode of thinking can also bring real advantages. Examples include original thoughts and resultant ideas. However, it can also result in anxiety and panic attacks. This is particularly so if forced into unfamiliar situations, or having to assume a role that necessitates acting like others or somebody the person with AS is not.
A moderate amount of stress is usually good and motivational for managerial performance. Too little stress and someone may be lethargic or dull; too much arousal, on the other hand, can lead to distress, confusion and…. stress.
The nervous system therefore needs to moderately aroused and “in balance”. What that level is will depend on individual circumstances. An individual needs to personally identify that level and manage it.
For someone with Asperger, arousal is, therefore, a highly pertinent issue. Neurologically, the more pronounced nervous system may lead to overreaction in certain situations, to subtle experiences. Overall it may involve a slower capacity to screen out or recover from intense stimuli.
Consciousness of being “different” may intensify anxiety levels and a burdensome feeling of inadequacies or shortcomings. What is moderately arousing for most people, can be highly so for someone with AS. Either way, unless controlled, arousal will probably mean being unable to perform at one’s best unless appropriate skills are developed.
Stimulation can vary in intensity and/or duration. For a person with Asperger, heightened arousal may come in “waves”: periods of intense panic followed by ones of calm. The same stimulus can have different meanings for different people. When there is no control over a stimulation, the greater the potential which exists for upset. This is particularly so if it is directly induced by other people.
Learning to deal with anxiety and stress therefore should be a key personal development requirement for a manager with Asperger syndrome.