Stress comes from an outsized capacity to see the things that are going wrong. —Gilles Barbot, founder and director of Esprit de Corps
People usually experience stress in situations that are new and unpredictable, where they feel a loss of control and a threat to their ego (source: Centre for Studies on Human Stress). Although these situations can sometimes be avoided, most leaders are confronted with them daily. Rather than engaging in an endless battle to reduce stressful situations, learn to manage your stress with these four tips.
1. Be Honest with Yourself
Before you can learn how to manage your stress, it’s important to evaluate your current performance and state of being. In which situations do you feel stressed? What are your symptoms? How does stress impact your daily life, and your work life in particular? What are you currently doing to manage your stress? In which situations is stress preventing you from performing at your best?
To become a better leader, it’s important to recognize your weaknesses. If you don’t think you’re an effective leader just yet, remember that the important thing is to want to improve. Your initial performance doesn’t matter. Completing this initial evaluation will allow you to later measure the progress that you’ve made and the efforts that you still need to make.
2. Remember That Stress Can Be Good for You
Stress has a bad reputation. But in response to stress, the body secretes oxytocin, commonly known as “the cuddle hormone”. Oxytocin is notably responsible for social bonding, as it triggers empathy. In a stressful situation, the body pushes individuals to band together and help each other. In this sense, stress can be perceived as your body helping you to achieve challenges.
To watch Kelly McGonigal’s TED talk on the subject, check out the article “Stress is Your Friend“. According to this renowned psychologist, your reaction to stress determines your ability to manage it. If you perceive stress as a negative phenomenon, capable of sabotaging your initiatives and paralyzing your decision-making process, you will experience stressful situations without being able to make use of them. However, if you are convinced that stress can be a positive asset, you will maximize your chance of success.
Contrary to popular belief, there is no such thing as “good stress” or “bad stress”. Every day, you will be able to choose the manner in which you perceive stress. You alone will choose whether your daily stress will be a burden or a tool for you to succeed.
3. Give Meaning to What You Do
The level of stress that a person experiences from various sources isn’t directly linked to their performance. In other words, an individual with very few exterior stressors can feel a very elevated level of stress and under-perform, while an individual experiencing significant amounts of outside stress can obtain remarkable results. It all depends on your capacity to give meaning to what you’re doing. Assigning meaning to your role as a leader allows you to distance yourself from any negative emotions attached to your activity. Good leaders are distinguished by their capacity to manage stress and give meaning to what they do.
4. Give Your Body What it Needs to Perform
The ability to give meaning to what you do comes from both mental and physical strength. Your body isn’t just a way of getting around. It’s important to take care of it so that you can face the challenges to come. This preparation starts, first of all, with what you eat. There are no magic “anti-stress” foods. Nevertheless, adopting an alkaline diet instead of an acidic one is recommended. Acidic foods (which make up the majority of our diet, if not all of it) intoxicate the body and prevent it from performing at its best. But an acidic-tasting food isn’t necessarily acidic when inside the body. You may be surprised to know that lemons are extremely alkaline once in the digestive system! For more details, consult this table of acidic and alkaline foods. You should also make efforts to keep up a regular exercise routine. While you don’t have to become a professional athlete, it’s important to have a healthy mind in a healthy body.
No matter how much stress you experience on a daily basis, you have two options:
• Put up with stress while ceaselessly trying to reduce the amount of stressful situations you are exposed to
• Have a positive attitude towards stress and make it a tool for success
Don’t run away from stressful situations. See each one of them as an opportunity to improve your leadership skills.
Stress comes from a disconnect between what you want to do and what you think you’re able to do —Gilles Barbot, founder and director of Esprit de Corps
At Esprit de Corps, we have an integrative approach to stress management. Our leadership coaching program will help you understand stress, so that you can master it. We will work with you hand-in-hand, in both a theoretical and practical way, to make you a better leader.
Watch Gilles Barbot’s advice below.