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Managing Stress in the Workplace

6 November 2019



More specifically ‘Corporate Burnout’ has taken out many top executives. It does seem all too easy to add a little more room on your day-to-day to take on ‘one more small wee thing’ and then…BAM! you’re out cold.

It happens gradually and sometimes begins with expanding projects that you’re working on and slowly but surely taking on far more tasks and responsibilities than you can initially manage. Then it starts, the trying to eat your cornflakes whilst sending a crucial email, taking a conference call during your morning jog, having no option but to attend that all-important closing meeting with a client by Skyping from your shower.

You’re tired, you’re working long hours, constantly driving for perfection and excuse me but what is this ‘work-life balance’ everyone keeps talking about?



Stress affects everyone, but for leaders…it’s on a whole other level.

When your daily decisions impact the company’s success, it’s a lot of weight to carry. You’re only human and since you don’t want to lose everything because you threw yourself into the land of burnout, try some of these tips for managing stress.

There’s no singular way to deal with stress…although, there are options to at least keep those overwhelming feelings at a manageable level.

I was recently hospitalised, to a degree, it was a physical manifestation of stress.  I didn’t realise that at the time and so sharing this blog is because I realised I was trapped in a prison of my own making.   I actually asked one of my colleagues to bring my laptop into the Emergency Receiving Unit so I could respond to emails – I am not making this up!



Observe the signs:

Red Flags! Pay attention to them. There are obvious signs you should look for that trigger distress and anxiety, but there are also underlying signs that can include physical symptoms, that just sneak in like an unwanted guest at a house party.

Blood pressure, sleep quality, digestive health, aches and pain and decreased immunity.  A cold that won’t shift, a feeling of tiredness that lingers, little physical things that you can put down to a host of reasons BUT when you add them all together, they add up to something insidious.

Emotional signs of stress can include the inability to make a decision, irritable, numbness, forgetfulness and lack of focus. Often, the physical and emotional signs of stress creep up slowly.



Bodily Sensations:

Use mindfulness skills to check in with your physical health. This will help you recognise what your baseline is. Shoulders too tight? Clenching your jaw? Back gone? Check-in with how your body feels several times a day.

Use muscle relaxation to help reduce tension in the moment and consider a professional massage or Spa Day once a month to help keep tension under control regularly. Make sure you do it though, maybe even schedule it for the same day and time and book ahead for at least 3 months so it becomes a consistent habit.

Is a one-on-one with a stranger shouting at you like the drill sergeant from Full Metal Jacket more your thing? Then a personal trainer may be more up your street. Being accountable to a trainer will help you stay motivated to make it a priority. Make sure you protect your time and, again, keep it blocked out in advance. You’ll benefit from the endorphins and dopamine that you’ll get from paying attention to those physical needs.



Avoid Burnout

Burnout is a CHOICE, it doesn’t have to be your fate.

Some people get caught in thought-traps and this is what keeps them stuck on track for ‘destination burnout’. Keep an eye on your thoughts.

Perhaps you feel that you are the only person that is capable of completing a project, or you blame yourself if an aspect of the company is under-achieving…well…guess what? YOU’RE NOT! So delegate!

Watch out for negative emotions around blame, guilt, hopelessness, impatience and frustration. 



It is important to remember your identity outside work.

You are NOT defined by your career. It is a part of who YOU are, not the other way around. The success or failure of a company is important, but it is NOT as important as you and your wellness.



By God…learn to trust others can do great things within the company, you are part of a bigger team; it doesn’t always have to be you. Your professional self is an important part of identity, but it doesn’t tell the full picture and isn’t ultimately life-fulfilling.



Broaden yourself.

Honour the parts of yourself that need time with friends and family and the parts that need you to throw yourself onto your bed in the star position. Learn to value those parts of yourself as much as your corporate self.

Perhaps you’re striving for success because you want the best for your family and want to make a better life for them. If you expend all your time, energy and attention on that single aspect of yourself, being successful in business may be the only legacy you leave behind.

While being successful is great, what else do you want for yourself?

Setting limits on your work demands, attending to your physical and mental wellness and DELEGATING your workload, can really help broaden your horizons beyond the boardroom and into a healthier, rewarding life of balance.



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