Stress, what is it? And how it affects us? And why managing it is very important for oneself as well as for others.
Stress in its literal meaning is “a state of mental or emotional strain or tension resulting from adverse or demanding circumstances”1 so basically stress can be anything, any situation that causes one to readjust in response to the demands or pressure from work, family, responsibilities, internal self-inflicted demands, poor life choices, self-criticism, and external causes, making us believe that the certain situation or problem or task is beyond our control and ability to handle, which usually results in panic attacks or severe depression, damaging our mental and physical health.As I mentioned above stress can be caused by various things, more specifically there are internal stressors and external stressors. Internal stressor can be negative/pessimistic thinking, over analysing/thinking, low confidence, poor life style choices, work over load, non-healthy activities, mind traps, exaggerating things and taking everything personally. Whereas external stressors can be social interactions like the people whom we work or interact with, their attitudes or behaviours like people being rude, aggressive, carless or non-cooperative, then there are organizational duties, work deadline, rules and regulations these also cause stress, moreover major life events also play a significant part in this for example, some trauma, loss of someone, personal relations, losing a job or sometimes getting a promotion can also cause stress as the when the post gets higher so does the responsibilities and certainly increasing the level of stress.All this stress effects a person not only mentally but physically and socially as well; making us depressed or anxious all the time, we start panicking even on the smallest things, our mood fluctuates and changes with a blink of an eye, moreover it can cause various health issues like high blood pressure, diabetes, heart problems migraines, etc and because of all this our social life also gets affected, we become intolerant toward people and situations, behaving aggressively, staying irritated and these type of attitudes can make us even loose friends, we don’t want to meet people or interact we prefer staying alone isolated.
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So, after knowing all this what comes in our mind is how to get rid of it? Unfortunately, its not possible as the only way to be completely stress free is death, because stress is a part of life till the end, it won’t go away, it stays, so instead of thinking about getting rid of it we must learn how to manage it and live with it peacefully without letting it cause harm to us as Dr. Hans Selye says:”It is not stress that kills us it is our reaction to it”2Its is very important to manage stress in order to maintain our overall wellbeing. We have always believed that stress is something which is bad for us, resulting in us taking even more stress by thinking about how much stressed we are, this whole thought process eventually makes us fall sick and doing nothing about our stress apart from running from it or giving in. After all these years believing that stress is bad for me (despite of the fact that I used to take a lot of stress even about the smallest things), I’ve came across a TED Talk by the psychologist Kelly McGonigal which changed my entire perception about stress and how we deal with it, and what struck me the most was the point that changing the way how we feel about stress can make it good for us, giving positive energy to us. So that was the first step which I learned in order to manage stress, changing our attitude towards it, as mainly it is our brain that gives all the orders to our body, and once we stop thinking about it as something negative that is when the managing process begins, when we take stress as a positive driving force, it increases our performance, energy and level of concentration.Managing stress may sound difficult but with my own experience I say its not that hard, just a few tricks and you are good to go.
First thing first as I mentioned earlier changing our perception towards stress is very important, then comes self-awareness, and by that here I mean is to know yourself and take control of yourself, have a positive attitude towards yourself and others, don’t underestimate yourself believe in your decisions and have the confidence that if something goes wrong there is always a way to correct it as Dr. Kelly says;”So, I would say that’s really the best way to make decisions, is to go after what it is that creates meaning in your life and then trust yourself to handle the stress that follows.”3So, trusting yourself is the key, moreover in order to handle stress we must be more vocal about our personal rights, like express what we think and feel, directly, honestly but in a way that does not hurt the rights of others, we must prioritize our objectives, duties and activities, set achievable and manageable goals, we shouldn’t overload anything, managing time is also very important because a work done on time before deadlines can decrease stress greatly. Another strategy which I learned from the TED talk by Dr. Kelly in order to manage stress is speaking it out, (which is very important) as she says “Stress makes you social”4 so usually in the past whenever I felt extremely stressed I used to distance myself from people, I was constantly grumpy and cranky, I believed the more alone I will be the more privacy I will have, the more I can concentrate on my problems and think for a solution about them, but unfortunately now I realised that I have never actually reached to a proper solution by that method it eventually lead me to be more stressed and feeling alone without even realising that I’m doing that to myself but after learning this strategy I started practicing it, now I talk to my family and friends about how I feel, about my work deadlines as well as some personal issues that cause stress, and by talking and sharing surprisingly now I feel less stressed and I’ve starting believing that I am not alone, stress is a part of everyone’s life it’s just how we deal with it matters the most, either we let it over power us or we take it as a positive energy, that’s all what makes the difference, so by sharing and discussing with others I feel more close and caring toward my family and friends and I understand their problems as well and try to help them too in changing their way of dealing with stress, it makes me happy and relaxed and connected.
So, we should talk to our family, friends and colleagues about how we feel and what is stressing us out, instead of detaching ourselves in stressful times which leads us to depression so its very important to talk and share. Last but not the least another practice to manage stress is to find activities for yourself, take breaks, give yourself some quality time, do things that interest you any hobby, activity, anything like exercising, meditating, painting, dancing and so on whatever that relaxes your mind and calm down your nervous take your time and do it, as these small things can also benefit greatly.Moving on when we talk about leadership and stress management, as I said earlier stress is a part of everyone’s life, so when it comes to leadership we know how stressful the job of a leader is; we all in our lives either have already lead certain situation playing the role of a leader or sometime in future want to be a leader, so is my case as I haven’t yet got a chance to be a leader but in the future I also like to become one, and for that I need to be aware of myself only then I can be aware of my people and be able to lead them, So, when I become a leader, as my leadership style falls between the Coaching and Affiliative style side, I manage my stress and my people’s stress in the following way:I believe people need constant motivation and connectivity, especially in the stressful times, as I myself need that most of the time so I think that others need that too, for example when leading a situation in a time of stress I would motivate people, instead of creating a hyper state and discouraging them by not trusting their abilities, by doing so can break their confidence and lower their performance so even if they lack somewhere, as a leader I will coach them not order them, so I need to be more understanding and helpful, I will try to help them, teach them and create a friendly environment so people can talk with me easily as communication is the key in hard times. Also as a leader I must communicate clearly to my people in an optimistic manner but on the same time I must be sure to identify mistakes clearly for myself and others and correct them accordingly, so rather than being formal or restraint, I will talk and make them feel comfortable, as it will help in lowering the level of stress and tension and enhance their performance, because if a situation is already stressful then being harsh and rushing things can highly increase the level of stress and lower the confidence of people and gives no solution.So, in situations like that as a leader first I will manage my self and my stress as it will set an example for people whom I am leading, as this is what leadership is all about, setting an example for people to follow. So, in order to take care of others and gain their trust I must first take care of myself and trust myself.
When people see their leaders dealing with their stress managing it, and their attitude towards stress they will also do the same as it will be a successful example for them to follow. So, to practice all that I must know my leaderships elements, which in terms of weakness are that I become stubborn at times, I worry a lot, I try to avoid conflict and get effected by attitudes easily, so I need to take control of these by the positive elements of my leadership, my strengths, which are being systematic, reliable, factual and helpful. So instead of being affected easily from everything, distancing myself from others being unreachable and trying to solve everything on my own being stubborn about my decisions I must act systematically, manage time and work before deadlines distributing the tasks among people on time so they can also finish before hand without being stressed, I must be reliable towards them and consult them in order to know if the work load is appropriate as per their abilities and resources, be factual about their and my own mistakes but that not in a condescending manner but in a helpful manner so that the harmony in the environment stays along with the responsibility of performing the tasks well. So, this way no one feels distant or left out on their own, a friendly environment is what everyone likes, so I being a leader must interact with my people and never forget to appreciate them on their good performance as compliments can be a major positive motivator, so I must compliment their work and moreover look out to organize some breaks or fulfilled activities in the work place in order to give them mental ease and relaxation from stress. So, in conclusion I will quote Mr. Lou Holtz as he says “It’s not the load that breaks you down, it’s the way you carry it”5 so as a person and as a leader one must be aware of oneself have the confidence, courage and belief of handling stress, when taking challenges in life one must embrace changes and make decisions about things that matter to them without being afraid of the consequences and have the confidence that if the thing matters for them they will fight for it to work out without it causing harm to oneself or others.