This article is part of a 5-Part Series on Emotional Intelligence for Leaders. We have covered self-perception, self-expression, interpersonal relationships, and decision-making, and we now conclude the series by discussing stress management.
Stress can cause bewildering effects on your body, mood, and behavior. It can make you feel like you’re sick or dying. It can turn you into a ticking time bomb when you used to be level-headed.
According to the Mayo Clinic, common effects of stress include the following:
- Body: Headaches, muscle tension or pain, chest pain, fatigue, changes in sex drive, stomach upset, and sleep problems
- Mood: Anxiety, restlessness, lack of motivation or focus, feeling overwhelmed, irritability or anger, and sadness or depression
- Behavior: Overeating or undereating, angry outbursts, drug or alcohol misuse, tobacco use, social withdrawal, and exercising less often
Josh Bledsoe, a Dale Carnegie instructor and Ted X Speaker Coach, shared in a LinkedIn article that a veteran nurse told him this about stress:
“There are people right now in our hospital who have absolutely NOTHING medically wrong with them, yet they are physically ill and have symptoms of illness. Stress has put them in our hospital rooms.”
While too much stress is not humane for anyone, we all know that working (and living!) naturally create pressure or stress that we need to learn how to deal with.
What is Stress Management?
Knowing how to deal with the stresses of your work life is known as stress management. Stress management is an integral part of emotional intelligence for leaders. It is one of the 5 factors in the EQ-i model of emotional intelligence, the best way to measure emotional intelligence globally. It uses decades of research to help people perform well and grow.
Why is Stress Management Important for Leaders?
Stress management is crucial in becoming an influential and respected leader.
The capacity to properly sense one’s own and other people’s emotions, to comprehend the signals that emotions transmit about relationships, and to effectively manage one’s own and other people’s emotions is what is meant by “emotional intelligence” (or “EQ”) in the context of leadership.
Being sensitive to and able to appropriately process your and other people’s emotions is a hallmark of emotional maturity.
Identifying and labeling feelings at work is crucial for effectively managing oneself and others. Ineffective leaders can’t meet the needs of their teams because they can’t read their workers’ emotions. Leadership success or failure often hinges on one’s capacity to comprehend and empathize with others.
The good news is that EI in leadership is teachable; anybody can considerably increase their EI levels for improved leadership outcomes with clear training and coaching abilities.
What is Stress Tolerance?
Stress Tolerance involves coping with stressful or difficult situations and believing one can manage or influence situations positively.
This can include taking a moment to step back and ask yourself, “Ok, this (stressful event) is happening, but what CAN we do?” Find constructive responses to the stress.
According to the University of Waterloo, being calm under pressure is one way to define stress tolerance. Positive stress tolerance is being calm despite overwhelming feelings of powerlessness and despair.
Here are a few ways the university suggests to manage your stress and increase your tolerance.
- Prioritize. Are too many volunteer activities stressing you out? If so, prioritize all your time-consuming activities. Assess if your extracurriculars are helping or hurting. It is okay to say no to things.
- Avoid being hijacked. Stress may cause emotional outbursts. Ask yourself whether your feelings match the scenario. Realistic thinking calms tensions and matches emotions to the circumstance.
- Focus on one problem. Multi-stressors may cause anxiety and overwhelm you. First, prioritize your issues. Start with the most significant issue.
- Pause. When you’re worried and your emotions get out of control, it’s hard to relax. Take some time to relax with a movie or dinner with a friend.
What Role Does Optimism Play in Stress Management?
Optimism is an indicator of one’s positive attitude and outlook on life. It involves remaining hopeful and resilient, despite occasional setbacks.
Those who look on the bright side are statistically more likely to have longer, happier, and healthier lives than their pessimistic counterparts.
Mental health practitioners have come to acknowledge the efficacy of deliberate, positive self-talk in altering an individual’s mood, outlook, and actions in recent decades.
Scientists have spent years comparing optimists with pessimists, and their findings suggest that optimists have some clear benefits.
The best health possible: Optimists at the age of 25 were shown to be much healthier at the ages of 45 and 60 in a study of 99 Harvard University students. The prevalence of infectious diseases, low health status, and premature death have all been associated in other research to a pessimistic explaining style. In a nutshell, pessimism may amplify the stress resulting in recurrent failure and rejection, which can lead to episodes of depression.
Emotional well-being: Seligman found that 12 weeks of cognitive therapy, which includes reframing a person’s mental processes, fared better than medicines in a trial of people with clinical depression because the effects lasted longer. Patients who received this optimism training were better able to bounce back from subsequent setbacks.
Longer life: Prolonged life expectancy was found in a study of 34 healthy Hall of Fame baseball players who played between 1900 and 1950. Furthermore, studies have shown that women with a positive outlook on life after being diagnosed with breast cancer do better than their less upbeat counterparts.
Less stress: Optimists had lower stress levels than either pessimists or realists, perhaps because they are more confident in their skills and the likelihood of positive outcomes. They think of failures as little obstacles that can be easily overcome and see successes as proof that even better times are ahead. If people have faith in themselves, they are more likely to take chances and bring good things into their lives.
How is Flexibility Related to Stress Management?
Flexibility is adapting emotions, thoughts, and behaviors to unfamiliar, unpredictable, and dynamic circumstances or ideas.
Being able to react instead of being immobilized in stressful situations is an ability that the most influential and successful leaders have.
Researchers into stress and mental illness have found that people who respond more flexibly to stressful life events are less likely to be depressed.
When the size or length of the body’s response to stress is out of proportion to the stressor, this can increase the risk of depression. This is especially true when stress happens often or over and over again. Psychoneuroimmunology (PNI) research focuses mainly on the size of the stress response. However, two relatively new stress theories have shifted the focus to the length of the response, which includes anticipatory reactivity and poor recovery.
Using these theories as a framework, researchers point to evidence that suggests psychological rigidity leads to more prolonged stress responses.
How To Deal With Stress
You can take several steps to manage your stress so that it doesn’t affect your mind, body, behavior, and the people you interact with daily.
Take the time to notice the signs that you’re getting stressed out – a clenched jaw, tight neck muscles, or a craving for empty calories can be some of the signs. Know yours, and intervene once you’ve recognized the warning signs.
To mitigate stress in your life, you will need to take several daily steps, which include maintaining a healthy diet, physical activity, and a healthy amount of sleep. Other activities that help relieve stress include relaxation techniques, like yoga, meditation, or breathing techniques; spending time with family and friends; making time for your interests; and maintaining a sense of humor about bumps in the road.
As a leader of your business, you can also do several things to make your workload less stressful.
First, make a list of everything you need to do. Once you have done that, order it by priority, meaning the most urgent tasks first, then things that need to be done this week, this month, and so on. Share this task list with your managers so they can know what needs to be taken care of and when it will be on their plate.
Summing It Up
Stress can have many undesirable effects on your health and career, but learning to manage your stress will strengthen your leadership abilities and emotional intelligence. If you are looking for ways to help manage your stress, you may want to book a call with me to discuss how your stress is affecting your leadership.
One proven strategy we can look at together is improving your emotional IQ, which as we’ve discussed can help your stress. Together, we can analyze your EQ-i and take concrete steps to improve. Book a call to set up an EQ-i Assessment and learn more about becoming an influential and respected leader.