The Truth About Stress and Managing It Effectively

In an article printed in  Harvard Business Review,  James Bailey writes about stress and how the leader can “combat its corrosive effects.”

School leaders are under tremendous stress.  As Bailey suggests, all stress isn’t bad; stress can make you refocus, get tasks completed, and energize you for performance.  That sort of “good stress” is only helpful if it’s coming in small doses.  That’s why the effective leader learns how to manage stress.

You won’t learn how to get rid of stress; that’s impossible given the demands of school leadership.  You also don’t help yourself by pretending that stress doesn’t exist or that you are immune to its effects.  The effects are real, whether you acknowledge them or attempt to ignore them.

Here’s the real story of stress:  stress produces cortisol and epinephrine into your body. The neurochemicals can be toxic to your system and lead to high blood pressure, anxiety, depression, cognitive disorders, and a litany of other physical ailments if exposed for long periods of times.  When you have been under intense stress for an extended period of time?  There’s a reason you feel that way.  When you work without ceasing and are preoccupied with work?  That feeling you have is the chemistry inside of you.  The effects of stress are real and often require treatment to address the damages done.

Bailey suggests that the steps towards renewal that counter stress can be sorted into  four categories :

  1. Health:    You’ve heard it before and it’s always true:  diet, sleep, exercise.
  2. Removal:   Anything that gets you out of the struggle of work.  Going to the movies, watching television, spending time with family, for example.  Getting your body and your mind away.
  3. Intellectual Activity:  Puzzles, games, reading, studying history.  When you study the world’s greatest thinkers they often led such pursuits away from their main occupation.  Lots of them were meticulous in their gardening.
  4. Introspection:  Meditation, prayer, breathing techniques, reflection.

The research suggests that it doesn’t even take much time for renewal to begin, even 20-30 minutes can be helpful in renewing your body from the effects of stress.  The difficult part for leaders?  It needs to be daily.

So, develop habits that keep the real, physical, neurochemical effects of stress from hijacking the awesome person, leader, and individual that you are and that you can be.



Source:  Harvard Business Review “Why Leaders Don’t Brag About Successfully Managing Stress” by James Bailey:

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