Last weekend I had the luxury of spending time with my daughter who is a sophomore in college. She had come home for the weekend to de-stress. Between having second thoughts about her declared major, the usual roommate issues that crop up when you live with four other college-aged women, and juggling her campus job and her role as social coordinator for her sorority, she was what we call a “stress ball.” For her, the weekend at home was a perfect solution to manage her stress. We talked through many of the challenges she is facing, spent lots of fun family time together, and even indulged in a little shopping therapy.
Reflecting on the weekend, I thought about how we never outgrow the need to manage stress in our lives. As leaders, with multiple demands on our time and attention, it’s normal to experience stress. The key is how can you manage it effectively, without your stress negatively impacting your decisions or those you lead?
As you may recall from our blog last Monday, stress management is actually an important part of our emotional intelligence. Last week we briefly talked about three behaviors that can help you manage stress. I thought it might be helpful to explore them a little more fully today.
Flexibility: This has to do with how easily can we adapt to change. Do you get annoyed when something doesn’t go according to your plan? Or are you able to quickly respond to changing circumstances and adapt your approach? Some of us are by nature more flexible than others. After taking multiple personality assessments, I know that I tend to be more pre-planned than some of my colleagues who naturally have a “go with the flow” approach. I’ve had to work on my ability to flex where I need to compromise with others or quickly adapt to changing circumstances. In those moments, it can be helpful to stop and ask, “How can I flex my attitude, my behaviors, or my approach?”
Stress Tolerance: This has to do with our ability to cope with stressful situations. Do you have healthy ways to cope with stress? For me, ways to improve my stress tolerance include regular exercise, eating healthy foods, and getting enough sleep. (I won’t go into detail about some of my less healthy ways of coping which include wine and copious amounts of chocolate.) Sometimes in stressful situations, just taking a quick moment to reflect and “breathe in, breathe out” helps me to not over-react. For my daughter, taking time away with her family was an excellent coping strategy.
Optimism: This is all about having a positive outlook. While the expression, “Is your glass half empty, or half full?” seems trite, it is really true. If you’re seeing something in a negative light, can you reframe it? Is there a positive perspective you can bring to the situation? For me, it helps to think about someone else’s viewpoint other than my own. If I’m having trouble seeing a clear positive viewpoint, I seek out other’s perspectives and ask lots of questions. Just reframing the situation as a learning opportunity or a chance to grow, I’ve found can be very helpful.
What are some of your strategies to manage stress?