In my recent coaching sessions and while delivering my Mental Toughness programme to various leaders, there have been strong themes of feeling overwhelmed, stressed, and lacking any control over one’s own destiny. This isn’t at all surprising given the impact of Covid19 on top of the more familiar personal and professional challenges and major life changes that you may face on a regular basis.

Just because these feelings are normal responses to change and uncertainty, it doesn’t mean you have to feel helpless. The challenge is to focus on the parts that are within your control rather than waste precious time and energy on things outside it.

How do I know I’m stressed?

Stress happens when there is an imbalance between the perceived demands being placed on you and your resources to meet those demands. When you are not challenged enough, you move from feeling comfortable and laid back, to feeling frustrated, de-valued, lacking in confidence, and eventually dis-engaged. This can lead you into a state of “rust-out”.

When you believe the demands are greater than your resources, you start to feel worried and anxious, then exhausted and apathetic, or panicky.  At this point, you are at risk of “burn-out”. The symptoms of rust-out and burn-out are very similar and their impact on your health is equally damaging.

The 3 effective ways to manage stress

Ross and Altmaier, in “Intervention in Occupational Stress”, highlight that stress management is a decision-making process and there are only 3 choices to make.

You can:

Alter it – Remove the source of the stress by changing aspects of how you approach your work. For example, problem-solving, clearer communication, better planning, and time management.

Avoid it – Remove yourself from the situation or figure out how to not go there in the first place.

For example: having clear boundaries, saying “no”, knowing your limits, letting go, effective delegation, or ultimately walking away from the situation, the team, department, or organisation.

Accept it – By equipping yourself physically and mentally through:

  1. Building your resilience. For example exercising, eating healthy and nutritious meals, using relaxation techniques, being mindful, accessing support systems, getting into nature, practicing visualisation, breathing techniques, and identifying your goals and values
  2. Changing how you perceive things. For example: identifying and addressing your limiting beliefs, unrealistic expectations, and unhelpful thinking about yourself, others, or the situation.

Which choices are you making? They may not be ideal, but they are choices and they are yours.

Julie Kay

Julie Kay is the founder of JK Leadership Development Ltd. She is a Professional Certified Coach (ICF) and an Ashridge Accredited Executive Coach (Ashridge/Hult International Business School). She works with fast-growing medium-sized businesses often in STEM-related industries. She particularly enjoys supporting technical and operational experts to increase their self-awareness, achieve results, and build strong trusting relationships with those around them.