How to address stress

In recognition of National Stress Awareness Day, we explore the best ways to deal with yours and that of  your colleagues

Stress is the body’s direct response to pressures in life that become overwhelming; it is both a physical and mental phenomenon which can take a great toll on the individual experiencing it.

Although stress is a normal emotion for most people, it can become a more debilitating problem if it continues to escalate and this can have a very negative impact on your mental health and daily life.

As a leader it is not only important to know how to prevent yourself from feeling stressed, but also how to deal with colleague and students when they are feeling stressed.

Methods to prevent yourself from feeling stressed

It is always best to try and prevent stress to stop it from occurring in the first place, rather than letting it build up and overwhelm you.

  • Recognise your triggers: in order to prevent your stress levels from spiralling out of control, you need to take note of certain tasks, situations, people or thoughts that lead to your stress levels rising. Once you recognise your triggers you can be prepared for them and know how to cope with them.
  • Be aware: in order to have a greater control over your emotions you need to be in-tune with them. Once you start to become more aware of your own thoughts and feelings you can, not only identify which ones lead to stress, but also rationalise why you may be feeling a certain way to stop the emotion spiralling and becoming irrational.
  • Show yourself some love: when you are beginning to feel stressed it is important to take some time out to concentrate on yourself and your wellbeing. When you feel like you have a million-and-one things to do it can seem counter-productive to put your tasks on hold and have a breather but, in fact, it can be more productive. Taking this time can allow you to gain more clarity on situations and can clear your ‘brain-fog’, allowing for you to take a look at tasks with a fresh perspective after you have had a break.
  • Eat, sleep, move, repeat: fatigue, hunger and physical inactivity are all contributory factors to the rise in stress levels so exercise, a good diet and a good night’s sleep are great aids to preventing stress. The endorphins released when eating well and exercising can suppress the build-up of cortisol, the stress hormone.
  • Time to talk: if you are beginning to feel that things are getting on top of you, speak to someone. It can be a loved one, therapist or even a stranger! Verbalising your feelings often leads to a big sigh of relief as a weight is lifted off your shoulders. Never underestimate how much talking about your emotions can contribute to you feeling happier and less stressed.
  • STOP! You’ve reached your limit: as with most things in life, it is important to know your limit; you need to be realistic about what can fit on your proverbial plate. Learn to say ‘No’ when you feel that your list of commitments is growing uncontrollably. Gain back that control by prioritising and only saying ‘Yes’ to doing things you can do.

What to do when a colleague is stressed

As a leader you have the responsibility to manage people and therefore it is vital that you are able to spot when a colleague is experiencing high-levels of stress.

If a colleague is overly stressed it can be detrimental to their work and their ability to perform in their role and in a team. Furthermore, if the stress becomes acute, absenteeism can also become a problem.

When you think a colleague may be overwhelmed, take them to one side and encourage them to talk about why they are so stressed. If it is as a result of work, then you can have an open and collaborative conversation about how you can both work together to solve this. If it is due to another issue, then you could refer to the methods above and recommend these to your colleague.

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