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How to Manage Stress: Stress Management Techniques

admin March 22, 2024

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Why it is Important to Reduce Stress at Work?

Working with people is generally considered stressful and working as a team, can be even more so. Stress is a hidden enemy that is often the cause of negative emotions like anger, deprivation, frustration, and – in addition to leading to many psychosomatic complaints – can generally adversely impact operating results. 

Common causes of stress are competitive circumstances where it’s hard to control events where feelings of helplessness can arise. 

Managing Stress in the Workplace: Definition of Stress

The expression “stress” was first used by the Canadian physician, Hans Seyle in the 1930s, based on his research into the impact of tension on materials (glass and metal). 

Seyle in his book: “The stress of life“, defines stress as: “The sum of all unspecified effects of stressors that can impact the body and trigger alarm reactions.”

The definition was based on the classic “fight or flight” physical response in our bodies to danger. 

This response is triggered in the oldest part of the brain, the so-called reptilian brain. In more general terms, Seyle also described stress as “the wear and tear on the body in our normal lives.

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He notes that humans and animals share the same “fight or flight “mechanism, meaning that in the presence of great physical danger, our bodies react in much the similar manner: they release vast amounts of energy and direct it to the most important centers at the moment to prepare us to either fight back or flee. This is basically what stress is.

However, humans react in much the same way even in the absence of danger, namely, even if merely thinking about it. And that’s very bad. 

Sapolsky boldly quotes: 

“God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference. — have the wisdom to pick your battles. And once you have, the flexibility and resiliency of strategies to use in those battles are summarized in something I once heard: in the face of strong winds, let me be a blade of grass; in the face of strong walls, let me be a gale of wind. In our privileged lives, we are uniquely smart enough to have invented stressors and uniquely foolish enough to have let them, too often, dominate our lives. Surely we have the potential to be uniquely wise enough to banish their stressful hold.

I strongly recommend to any leader Sapolsky’s, “Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers”, as very contemporary book where you can find almost everything you need to know about stress.

How to Deal with Stress as a Manager

In their daily life, during calls and meetings, but especially now during the pandemic and work from home, managers must gain deeper insights and periodically assess the importance of corporate culture and values, and enhance meaning and purpose, to strengthen team cohesion and improve relationships with all members of the team. 

The father of the modern management Peter Drucker quoted: “You cannot manage other people unless you manage yourself first.” Wisely said, so managers must start there first. 

According to Dr. Karl Albrecht, a stress management expert, in his book “Stress and the manager“, he explains the four common types of stress managers usually face, depending on the root cause. 

4 Common Types of Stress on Managers

1. Time stress, is when you worry about the time. Deadlines, priorities, being late for meetings and many other things you have to finish, but you never have enough time for. 

“Your time is limited so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma—which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.” – Steve Jobs, founder of Apple

2. Anticipatory stress concerns future events, such as an upcoming board meeting or public speech you’re going to give. It’s a worry that “something will go wrong.”

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Try to meditate at least for 15 minutes every day, rest well before the upcoming event, and ask for help and assistance from your colleagues.

3. Situational stress happens when you’re in a scary situation that you have no control over. 

This could be a situation that involves conflict with somebody, some emergency event or a loss of status in the eyes of your teammates after making a huge mistake.

The key for managing this type of stress is personal awareness and and effective facilitation of conflicts. I recommend the “6 pillars of successful teams“, as a guide that can help you in proactively navigating various situations in your team.

4. Encounter stress revolves around people, when you worry about interacting with a certain person or group of people that you may not like, or you might think that they’re unpredictable.

It can also occur if you have a lot of interactions with people that have high rates of stress, because they don’t feel well or are deeply upset. To manage this type of stress I recommend you start with practicing emotional intelligence, because the ability to recognize people’s emotions, needs and personalities, improves interactions with them and builds better relationships.

How to Help your Team Reduce and Deal with Stress

According to the World Health Organization, workplace stress is particularly common in situations when employees are asked to do things that exceed their knowledge, abilities and coping skills, and when they do not have enough support from peers to close that gap. 

The top five things that people say make them feel stressed have to do with workplace conditions that managers could probably do something about, according to the WHO. 

Those top five things are: low wages or salaries, lack of opportunity to advance or grow, too heavy a workload, unrealistic job expectations and long hours.

It’s important for managers to spot the signs of stressed-out employees, such as incomplete work, decreased productivity, lower quality of work and mistakes. They can also ease up on deadlines and meet with workers and help them prioritize projects.

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