How Leaders Can Manage Stress to Create a Healthy Office Culture
By Lori Counts
The global pandemic brought the topic of mental health and stress into the national spotlight, where we are finally recognizing the need to alleviate the stigma surrounding mental fatigue. At last, people are talking about mental health in a positive light and working hard to break down past barriers. Just a few short years ago, hospitals would shy away from raising money for mental health initiatives. Today, nearly every health care organization we speak with is elevating mental health as a major fund development priority.
According to a recent article in Forbes entitled Future of Work: 9 Mental Health Predictions in the Post-Pandemic Workplace, author Bryan Robinson states, “A March ‘22 poll conducted by the American Psychological Association suggests that Americans are in ‘survival mode’ due to reports of high stress levels caused by inflation, the ongoing pandemic and the crisis in Ukraine.”¹ Combine these outside stressors with family dynamics, financial concerns and job pressures, it’s no wonder there are serious mental health issues facing our nation.
When we as leaders practice healthy stress management, we signal to others that it is alright to do the same.
No doubt about it, philanthropy executives are guaranteed to experience both stress and pressure. The demands in health care are relentless and constantly changing. Therefore, high functioning health care executives must develop ways to manage their stress and accomplish their goals. When we as leaders practice healthy stress management, we signal to others that it is alright to do the same. Here are a few suggestions to help leaders manage stress and encourage others to manage theirs:
Work to identify stressors. The pressure of time constraints can reduce concentration, limit creativity and make it difficult to process and remember important information. To help identify stressors, make a list of situations that cause stress. Is there a pattern? Are work habits causing stress? Is procrastination to complete tasks causing stress? Is perfectionism creating more challenges than necessary?
Focus on priorities. Keep a list of priorities in the forefront. When pulled into competing directions, determine whether those tasks will help achieve overall goals. Get comfortable setting boundaries and time management strategies.
Anticipate new demands and challenges. Be proactive about identifying threats or opportunities. This helps to better cope with the unexpected and helps in better preparing for stressful situations.
Reflect and learn from past mistakes. Think about a situation where failure to anticipate stressful triggers, such as change, resulted in a negative outcome. After reflection, determine what could be done differently next time. What can be learned from past setbacks?
Produce an action plan. Creating a plan settles the anxiety of feeling not in control. Crafting a plan works to move from the present situation to the future, where optimism lies.
Prioritize self-care. Schedule regular breaks to engage in activities such as exercise, meditation and deep breathing. Practicing self-care has been shown to reduce anxiety and depression, as well as increase happiness and energy.
Think optimistically. Research shows that people admire leaders who exude confidence and display a calm demeanor. Unmanaged stress can lead to irritability, negatively impacting the workplace. A positive outlook helps to build trust and confidence in leaders. In order to help create a healthy office culture, it is important that leaders:
frame difficult challenges as learning opportunities.
keep the situation in perspective.
don’t dwell on disappointments.
concentrate on what can be controlled instead of what cannot.
display a positive and resilient attitude.
Leading through work-life challenges often requires more than the identification of a problem and a call for action. It requires looking beyond the scope of the challenge or present situation to identify the actual source of the issue. The root problem is sometimes located where we would least expect to find it—inside ourselves. We must become change agents by first adjusting our own thinking and altering our own maps. We become less likely to increase anxiety and stress in others if we make a commitment to think more genuinely about how our actions impact those around us. Being more open to change and new ideas can be so inspiring to others. We may not be able to change the challenging situation we find ourselves in, but we can change how we react to the situation while being role models for others to follow.
¹ Bryan Robinson, Ph.D., Future of Work: 9 Mental Health Predictions in the Post-Pandemic Workplace, Forbes Magazine, 5/4/22.
About the Author: Lori Counts is a Principal Consultant and Certified Executive Coach with Accordant. She specializes in executive coaching, board development and training, as well as program assessments and capital campaign fundraising. You can reach her at Lori@AccordantHealth.com or connect with her through LinkedIn.