“Dare to be…. stress isn’t mandatory”

15 Practical Tips for Helping

We all experience stress and to a certain degree we need stress to be motivated into action. However, left unchecked, even low levels of chronic stress will not only reduce your ability to solve problems and make decisions, your stress will reduce your team’s productivity and engagement.

Stress isn’t mandatory! Running a business, looking after clients, managing your team, doesn’t have to be stressful. Making decisions, solving problems, overcoming challenges, shouldn’t automatically equate to a stressful day.

The hardest thing for most executives is to actually admit they are suffering from stress – ask yourself these questions and if you find yourself agreeing with a few of them, you are probably stressed. Do you:

  • Rush to work in a panic every morning anxious about what the day will bring?
  • Eat lunch at your desk to get as much work done as possible?
  • Frequently work long hours and get home late, more often than you (or your spouse) would like to admit?
  • Feel too exhausted at the end of the day to enjoy family activities at night?
  • Ruminate about what needs to be done tomorrow as you try to fall asleep?
  • Dream about work?
  • Drink to relax?
  • Put off holidays because you’re too busy to take them?

If you answered yes to a few of these questions, stress is probably affecting your life more than you realise. It’s not uncommon for overstressed people to either ignore or fail to recognise the signs that they’re over-committed to their work. But the physical and emotional consequences of working as hard and as fast as you can every day are serious, and include increased risk of a heart attack, decreased resistance to infections, anxiety and more.

But stress isn’t mandatory! Here are some quick tips for avoiding stress:

  1. Being vulnerable is a strength not a weakness: Great teams and great managers trust one another on a fundamental, emotional level and are comfortable being vulnerable with each other about their weaknesses, mistakes, fears and behaviours. It really is okay to talk about feelings at work and acknowledge difficulties that you are having.  You’ll be perceived as caring, not a wimp.
  1. Accept that you’re not godlike: You don’t have to know everything or find the all-conquering, complete solution every time. Include your team in helping with problems, creating realistic deadlines. Your colleagues, your team, your family, can all help in their own way, if you give them the chance. Their help or their solution may not be how you see it, but that’s often the point, isn’t it?
  1. Accept help from within: However lonely you feel, however much you’re convinced that you are the only one to solve the issue, however much you believe that nobody else can help you – accept that you are wrong! There is so much untapped good in most firms it’s important to engage with others who might give you the insights that you need to make
  1. Work with a coach: Good coaches will help you break down problems into “bite sized chunks” give you confidence to make better decisions more quickly than you will do by yourself.
  1. Prioritize: Don’t try to get everything done at the same time. Remember it is better to under promise and over deliver, not the other way around. Do this and set expectations you can meet and beat.
  1. Eat that frog: Mark Twain famously said that if the first thing you do in the morning is eat a live frog, you can go through the rest of the day knowing the worst is behind you. Your “frog” should be the most difficult item on your to-do list, the one you’re most likely to procrastinate Eat that first! If you don’t…and you let him sit there on the plate and stare at you while you do a hundred unimportant things, it will subconsciously drain your energy, create stress and you won’t even know it.
  1. Get everything out of your head:“Your brain isn’t designed to hold ideas, it’s designed to have ideas.”  Dump everything onto a piece of paper, a whiteboard or better yet, a MindMap program where you can focus on one issue at a time.
  1. Think positively: Do not dwell on failures and reward yourself for your successes. Accept that everyone has limits and cannot succeed at everything. Reflect on what you have achieved and do not be critical of yourself to others. Whilst it can be useful to confide your concerns to someone you trust, telling the world is something else. Be kind to yourself. Make a list of your good qualities and believe them, believe in yourself.
  1. Create quality thinking time: Close the door to your office, work of site, turn off your mobile phone, stop email notifications etc. If you get interrupted by someone at work, don’t address the problem immediately, agree a time in your diary, put them into your schedule and tell them you’ll get back to them at the agreed-upon time.
  2. “Eat the elephant one bite at a time”: Failing to take action never removes stress but actually taking action can do just that. Just because something is difficult, it doesn’t have to be stressful. Don’t sit and worry – take action! Big problems can usually be broken down into small actions that can be digested “one bite at a time”
  1. Acknowledge your “gremlin” and “slap him down”: Unfortunately for most of us, when faced with the requirement to do something outside of our comfort zones our brain usually starts to come up with all sorts of apparently practical and very rational reasons why that uncomfortable thing we need to do can be put off until later. The fear of appearing foolish or inadequate; the fear of fluffing it; and that most terrible of all fears: the fear of being found out and exposed as incompetent to our friends and peers. This fear of working outside our comfort zone is the work of the “gremlin” that we all have inside of us. Learn to acknowledge his existence and get him off your shoulder.
  1. Reduce noise in your environment: Shut your office door if you have one.
  1. Look after your health: Eat right, sleep right and exercise regularly. Don’t eat lunch at your desk, and don’t bring work with you to lunch.


  1. Recharge your brain: Throughout your day take a brief walk, 10 deep breaths, have a coffee, talk to a colleagues about something non-work-related.
  1. W.I.N. Simply ask yourself the question, “What’s Important Now?” over and over again throughout your day. It is a simple question which can help you refocus and take positive action. The answer to the WIN question will change throughout your day. At times, WIN will mean giving complete attention to your spouse or children; at times WIN will mean taking steps towards growing your business; at times it will mean being the best employee/employer you can be. The key is that you SHOULD be doing the right thing at any one moment in time.
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