How to manage stress as a leader

Written by
Carole Spiers

28 Jul 2017

28 Jul 2017 • by Carole Spiers

The challenges of leadership in a volatile and uncertain business landscape, and concerns around job insecurity, cause many senior HR professionals to work long hours, which puts a strain on their home lives.

This excessive pressure at work and home contributes to an unhealthy work-life balance, which can cause dangerous stress-related conditions that require professional help.

Even people barely out of university are having to take responsibility for their own wellbeing and lifestyle management, in a way they never had to previously.

So what basic advice can you follow? First, be aware of the following symptoms and note down any you experience:

  • Mood swings
  • Skin problems
  • Muscle tension/headaches
  • Waking unrefreshed
  • Anxiety and/or depression
  • Tiredness and low energy
  • Poor concentration/memory
  • Changes in eating patterns 
  • Digestive problems

If any of these problems persist, acknowledge that you are under excessive pressure, and must either reduce your working hours or devise a new time-management schedule – separating the ‘urgent’ tasks from the genuinely important ones – and adopt coping strategies.

Identify the causes of stress and examine whether your expectations of yourself, and others, are realistic.

Stress may lead you to over-eat. Try to eat a balanced diet with carbohydrates such as wholemeal bread and pasta, and plenty of fruit and vegetables. Drink plenty of water.

Include a period of relaxation every day. Do something you enjoy that complements your lifestyle such as reading, yoga or meditation. Feeling comfortable inside and out is a vital part of living successfully.

Make regular exercise a part of your everyday lifestyle, choosing an exercise that you like, or you won’t stick to it.

Attend a stress management course to learn how to manage pressure rather than waiting until you experience stress.

Remember, pressure can be a motivator but prolonged, excessive pressure is not conducive to work or wellbeing.