What do I mean by this?

Even when your legs are going crazy underwater, you're calm and cool on the surface

If you ask people what they admire about great senior leaders, you'll often hear statements like this:

  • Even-keeled temperament

  • Calm under pressure

  • Doesn't fly off the handle

And the reason this is so important, is that in times of stress and pressure, we look to our leaders for strength and stability. We look to them to help us feel safe and secure when things around us are uncertain.

And if they're freaking out, it causes a negative ripple effect on the team.

Some people naturally possess this temperament, but if you don't – like many others out there – the good news is that you can develop it. And there are some practical ways of doing so, which I'll break down in today's newsletter.

But before I do so, let me clarify…

The goal is not to find ways to hide the fact that you're freaking out so your team feels better in the moment. That's a recipe for disaster as we can only keep up a facade for so long… Instead, the goal is to learn tools and techniques to better manage stress.

Without further ado, here are 4 ways to improve your stress management at work:

1. Mindfulness

Yep, I'm talking about this thing again. And for good reason – mindfulness is a powerful tool when it comes to managing the stress of work and life.

There are many ways to practice mindfulness, from breathwork to meditation to journaling… but the common theme is better self-awareness and self-command.

Regular engagement in these practices brings about a new level of awareness in ourselves. It allows you to clearly see – ‘uh oh, my heart rate is increasing, I'm starting to get agitated. I probably need to take a breather and gather myself before I respond.'

I'm personally a fan of doing a 10min meditation in the morning, to start my day off on the right foot, and then adding in 2min mindfulness breaks a few times during the day.

Each time I take 2mins out of my busy day, I'm recharged (mentally) and ready to face whatever comes next. If that feels like too much of a time commitment, think of all the HR hours you'll save by adequately managing stressful situation with your team 😉

2. Boundaries

If you know me, you know I'm a big fan of boundaries. But it wasn't always this way… earlier in my career I was a workaholic with very few boundaries. And this created a lot of stress in my life and trouble in my relationships… but that's for another newsletter.

The importance of boundaries in the context of managing stress better, is that when you're rested and at your best, you will better handle stress.

When I say ‘at your best' I also mean:

  • You aren't carrying resentment towards your work or team because you're overworked

  • You can have hard conversations in a kind way because you've maintained boundaries with your colleagues

  • You're mentally fit because you take the time you need for yourself

I believe that introducing boundaries and holding them firmly allows you to bring your best self to work and manage intense situations.

In terms of what the boundaries are, only. you can decide this. But here are a few examples:

  • Blocking off lunch hour for a proper meal and a walk outside, instead of working through it

  • Creating a rule where you don't immediately say ‘yes' to everything that's asked of you – if it's an extra project or big commitment, sleep on it and ensure you're ready to commit the time

  • Controlling your calendar by blocking off time for deep work and self-development

They key is to determine what boundaries will best serve you, and once you implement them, be firm. If you're letting people walk all over your boundaries, you don't have any.

3. Detachment

This word has somewhat of a negative connotation, so let me explain. When I say to practice detachment, I mean practice detaching your self-worth from your company's success.

This is especially important as you move up in leadership, and often feel as though your happiness is directly proportional to your function and company's success.

The problem is this is a losing game. Because there is always MORE that needs to be done. There's always a new revenue goal, or EBITA target that you're chasing. And while I am a believer in having goals and taking action towards achieving them, I am not a believer in living and dying by these goals when it comes to my personal self-worth.

Now, what does this have to do with managing stress? Easy, when you can take a step back and see the situation for what it is – a stressful work issue and not the end of the world – you're more likely to manage it in the way you want to. With focus, patience and a calm confidence.

4. Practice

With anything, you're not going to get this right immediately and you're going to occasionally mess up. That's okay!

The important part of failing is learning. If you're failing over and over without learning or changing anything, that's not great. But if you can look back on a situation that didn't go as you wanted it so and ask yourself what you've learned and what you would change for next time, then that ‘failure' of a situation may end up being a gift. It may be what inspires you to do things differently next time.

The good news is that as a leaders, you'll get lots of opportunity to practice this skill! Add a weekly review to your calendar and ask yourself how you managed stress at the end of every week.

Good luck to you.

Until next time friends… ✌️💜