Under Pressure? 5 Tips To Staying Calm


I was recently asked to be a panellist on a live online Q&A about workplace stress.  The Q&A was hosted by The Guardian’s Small Business Network, and I was really pleased to participate.  You can read the full discussion here.

I was especially pleased that one of the other particpant’s seemed to like my 5 Top Tips for managing your own stress levels.  i.e. “what steps can I take that will help me better manage the pressure I am under?”.  The contributor called them a “template for managers to raise awareness and promote wellbeing in their teams”.  And who am I to argue with that?   So…here they are:

1) Firstly, and I know I’m going to sound like your doctor now, but try to get some EXERCISE. Even if it’s just a little. You don’t have to run marathons.  How about a relaxing swim?  Or if, like me, you don’t like the ‘faff’ of getting undressed, wet, dry, and then dressed again – why not try some (very gentle) jogging?  There are loads of training plans out there that start you off running for a minute at a time, but gradually build up to ten or even tweny minutes of jogging before you’ve even noticed!  Not only does exercise release those feel-good endorphins, etc, it helps regulate sleep. Which brings me on to….

2) Aim to get the SLEEP that you need (whether that’s 3 hours or 9).  Try to create a bedtime routine.  Make sure your bedroom is not too warm – leave a window open.  You’ll know what effect caffeine has on you (if any) – so take that into account.  Try to limit ‘screen time’ in the hour or so before bed.  The light from a TV, laptop or phone will only confuse your brain into thinking that it’s not actually night time!  Leave your smart phone downstairs!

3) Watch your DIET – particularly sugar and alcohol intake, which can have a negative impact on your mood and make bad things seem terrible.  If you find yourself waking at 3 or 4am, it may be that your body is experiencing a sugar ‘crash’ from a late-night snack.  And I think we all know the effects of too much alcohol on long-term health and short-term dignity! (Or is that just me?!)

4) Learn some RELAXATION techniques. Some of these only take 1 minute and can dramatically improve the physiological symptoms of stress.  Breathing exercises, simple meditations, visualisations – these can all have the discernible effect of overcoming the “fight, flight or freeze” reactions our bodies have developed in response to danger.   Google is your friend, here.

5) Do something to FEED YOUR SOUL, and do it often. This is a phrase I nicked from my friend and colleague Sarah Edwards.  Feeding your soul is a very personal thing. For you it might be listening to a great symphony. Watching your favourite football team. Volunteering in your spare time. If you don’t know what it is that feeds your soul, experiment until you do. It will be a lifesaver.

If you’ve done all of the above, the chances are that you will feel physically refreshed, will be likely to process setbacks more positively, and will be more able to make helpful decisions.

To find out more about my counselling and coaching work in the corporate sector, take a look at my corporate website.

Here’s my personal counselling website, for indiduals who would like some support.

Want to find out more for yourself?  Here are two books to check out:

“The Relaxation & Stress Reduction Workbook” – Martha Davis, Elizabeth Robbins Eshelman et al

“The Chimp Paradox” – Steve Peters