Leaders and managing workplace stress

There’s a lot of stress going around these days.  And leaders need to know how to handle it.  But first, they need to understand it. 

About stress:

  • It’s impossible to live without stress, especially in the workplace. 
  • Stress is not what happens to you, it’s how you react to what happens to you. 
  • With no stress, you’re bored.  With too much stress you’ll be dysfunctional.  With just the right amount of stress, you can be very productive.
  • However, people have different tolerance levels.  What’s exciting and a welcome challenge for one person is anxiety-producing and dreadful to another. 
  • The key isn’t to learn how to avoid stress; it’s learning how to better cope and adjust.

Leaders can help by first taking care of themselves.  It does no good for your people if you are stressed-out, making rash decisions, blaming, lashing-out, or exhibiting any other dysfunctional behavior.  Like with the oxygen mask on an airplane, take care of your own stress first, then help others.

How to help yourself:

  • Get regular exercise
  • Learn how to relax or meditate — it’s been proven to be effective in negating stress
  • Consider reducing or eliminating caffeine intake — do it slowly or you’ll get withdrawal headaches
  • Get a good night’s rest
  • Eat healthy foods
  • In circumstances beyond your control, go with the flow — such as in rush hour traffic
  • Change how you interpret events — see the glass as half full
  • Instead of simply reacting to stressful situations, take a deep breath first
  • Use your support system – share thoughts, feelings, challenges with those you trust and are supportive
  • Inject humor

For your people:

People get most stressed from two things:  first, not knowing what will happen or is likely to happen, and second, having no control over what will happen.  You can’t control the economy, but as the leader, you can control what you do about it.  So do these things:

  • Tell people what you know, what is likely to happen, and what is your gameplan.  (Let them know what to expect.)
  • Let them participate in deciding what they should do now to help with the situation.  (let them have some control or influence over the situation.)
  • Encourage them to follow the tips above

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