6 Stress Management Tips for Female Leaders
It can be stressful out there! Especially for female leaders who are striving to make a difference at work, prove their worth and progress. But there are strategies that we can adopt to manage our stress levels, boost our productivity and achieve real success in our careers and lives.
For many women, landing that great job, earning a good salary, working with good people and being really stretched is what it is all about. But what happens when it causes unwanted and inevitable stress? Here is a reminder…
In this article I provide 6 tips that executives can implement to manage the stress caused by the daily demands of the workplace.
1. Identify the early signs of stress
Award-winning author and research professor Brené Brown encourages women to identify the warning signs of stress and burnout in order to avoid a larger problem. She says, ‘If you don’t want to burn out, stop living like you’re on fire.’
Watching for the first signs of stress – which can manifest as resentment, insomnia, headaches, frequent colds/infections. Get really good at knowing what’s is going on with yourself. Not recognising how stress is affecting you can take its toll on your physical and mental health, which will impact your performance, not to mention your life.
2. Adjust your mindset
‘Stress’ usually has negative connotations, but not all stress is bad stress. If we didn’t experience stress, we wouldn’t be motivated to achieve anything. If we didn’t experience stress when we went for a career enhancing job interview, we probably wouldn’t prepare as thoroughly as if we hadn’t felt that pressure.
We feel stress when we doubt our ability to cope with the stressful event or situation. It’s either a real or imagined threat to us. The important thing to remember is that it is not the actual threat that is causing us the stress, it is our belief about the threat and our response to it.
The new science of stress reveals that how we think about stress matters.
Health psychologist Kelly McGonigal encourages women to re-frame stress as a powerful game-changer. She invites us to take a step back and view stress as a helpful indicator that we are ready to face the next challenge in life, learn something new, take action, and reach out to others for help. It is an indicator. By identifying the early signs of stress, we can begin to make changes.
3. Stressful lives are meaningful lives
If we didn’t experience stress, our lives would be empty. As Kelly McGonigal states in her book ‘The Upside of Stress’ ‘stressful lives are meaningful lives.’ The key is learning to distinguish between what psychologists refer to as ‘eustress’, i.e. ‘good stress’ and ‘acute or chronic stress.’ Good stress becomes bad stress when we are burdened by it over a prolonged period, for example a career or relationship we are unhappy in. This is the stage it’s important to assess what needs to be done to make the necessary improvements before our health and wellbeing are seriously affected.
4. Create boundaries
Setting boundaries at work and home is a good defense against stress and burnout. Be considered about what you say ’yes’ to. If you find yourself often resenting just how much people demand from you, that’s your wakeup call and it’s time to assert firmer boundaries. To successfully manage our stress, we must let others know what our limits are.
Boundary setting is not easy, so be prepared to negotiate. You may find your boundaries don’t match those of others, as a leader we need to consider not only our own needs but the needs of others. So, ask yourself, what is the fairest approach to this for all involved? Or, is there an alternative solution that would bring greater harmony to the situation? Be intentional about how you carve out your energy consumption.
5. Make time to look after yourself
It’s important to prioritise down time. Try to give yourself the space to engage in activities you enjoy, to practice mindfulness, to get a massage, to go to a yoga class. Make your wellbeing a non-negotiable. Establish the activities that help you unwind, revive your spirits and enrich your life and factor them into your diary planning.
Taking a break from our working world can be one of the most effective ways to re-group and re-charge. “I think it’s really important to take time off,” YouTube CEO Susan Wojicki told Today “And I’ve also found that sometimes you get really good insights by taking time off, too.”
Taking care of ourselves is often the last thing on the list. But maintaining a healthy balance is the key to staying sharp, motivated, healthy and successful.
Implementing a routine of self-care is the best preventative measure against stress and burnout. Everything from a meditative practice, to regular workouts, to an afternoon walk outside (rain or shine) can keep our minds clear and keep things in perspective. Prioritising our wellness is one of the best investments in our career success we can make.
6. Practice mindful leadership
Mindful leaders are aware of their motivation and the reasons they chose to lead, and they carry this with them as they progress along their leadership path. Mindful leadership is about knowing why you chose to be a leader, what your purpose is, how you are serving others and how you are ensuring that you are meeting not only your own goals but those of your team and the organisation. When our work is connected to our purpose we find we have fuel reserves we didn’t know we had.
Stress can energise us and it can drain us. We can learn to monitor and manage our fuel gauge to ensure we don’t run out of gas on our incredible journey. It requires being intentional and becoming practiced at stress identification and management. We owe it to ourselves, our teams and our families because our careers are a marathon these day not a sprint. Make sure you keep filling the tank.
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