Globalisation, managing a business in a VUCA environment, and an increased feeling of isolation have made being a CEO more difficult than ever. In fact, two-thirds of CEOs are currently struggling with stress and exhaustion. But they don’t have to be. CEOs need to work harder to rise above it, identify the cause of their stress, and proactively manage it.
As a leader, stress can impact both your mental and physical health. It can also lead to poor decision-making and inefficient work. If you want to be the best that you can be, you need to control your stress effectively and ensure that it doesn’t control you.
This process begins with a better understanding of stress, how it originates, and how you can mitigate it. There are four major types of stress: time stress, anticipatory stress, situational stress, and encounter stress. Each of these has its own nuances, drawbacks, and even benefits.
1. Time stress
The clock is ticking and there’s no way you’re going to be able to accomplish everything that you need to do. As deadlines loom ahead, you start to wonder whether you’re even capable of fulfilling the duties of your position.
Time stress involves the pervasive feeling that there’s never enough time in the day. This type of stress tends to occur as deadlines approach. CEOs are responsible for a tremendous number of deadlines, and realistically they can’t all be met. A CEO may find that they simply cannot achieve all their goals, and this can lead to feelings of failure.
But time stress is also one of the easiest types of stress to handle as it’s related to something tangible and immutable. Though you can change your habits, there’s nothing you can do about time itself. Because of this, being realistic about your goals is one of the most critical aspects of relieving time stress.
- Brush up on your time management skills. You may not have enough time because time is simply slipping away unnoticed. Pay attention to how you’re spending your time and work to optimise it.
- Delegate your tasks intelligently. You may actually not have enough time in the day, especially if you have been trying to handle everything yourself. If a task can be handed off, it should be.
- Be realistic about what you can and can’t do. Don’t take on too much. Part of being a leader is ensuring that you aren’t put in the position of over-promising and under-delivering.
The more control you have over your time, the less stress you’ll experience. After all, you’ll already know what you can and can’t do, and you’ll be able to avoid over-booking yourself. Here is an article on how to effectively delegate tasks in order to free up time in your day.
2. Anticipatory stress
The new expansion seems to be going great, but there’s no way of really knowing until the doors open. Are you going to be prepared?
CEOs may begin to experience stress before a major event, especially if the results are uncertain. This is natural; it’s that fight-or-flight instinct kicking in before an upcoming ‘battle’.
Since you don’t know what you should prepare for, all you can do is wait and worry — and that, in itself, can become damaging. Anticipatory stress is one of the most insidious forms of stress because it can be constant. After all, there’s almost always something new around the corner. Anticipatory stress also conveys no true benefit: worrying about a situation that you can’t change doesn’t help.
- Prepare yourself. The better prepared you are for upcoming events, the less you will have to worry about.
- Be confident in your decisions. Though you may not always be able to make the right decision, you should be able to make the best-informed decision. You are, after all, still human.
- Focus on tangible actions. Rather than worrying, look for something that you can investigate or improve. This allows you to take control over the situation in a functional way.
3. Situational stress
All the data is gone, and the backups are nowhere to be found. Could this spell the end for your business?
Even the best-prepared leaders will occasionally face an emergency. The emergency above — data loss — has happened to nearly a third of all organisations at one point or another. This type of stress is generally blended with panic, and that can lead to exceptionally poor decision-making. Emergency situations often require immediate action, and they can have devastating consequences. CEOs will often feel under pressure to quickly make the right decisions to steer their business out of danger.
- Take a breather. Even in an emergency, you need to take the time to think things through; otherwise, you could simply compound your problems.
- Seek out advice. A knowledgeable mentor or experienced business partner may be able to reframe your perspective and give you some useful tips.
- Remove yourself from the situation. If it’s a specific environment that is triggering your stress, remove yourself from it to fully consider your options.
4. Encounter stress
It’s that time again — downsizing. You know that it’s part of running a business, but that doesn’t make the meetings any easier.
CEOs need to deal with people, and not all of those dealings are pleasant. From employee reviews to firings, there can be many social encounters that are less than pleasant.
CEOs may feel stress when approaching negotiations, dealing with angry customers, or having to censure their own employees. Encounter stress can also simply arise from having to be in constant contact with many individuals, as having to be social and ‘on’ all the time can be exhausting. This can lead to a feeling of brain drain and impact a CEO’s ability to work.
- Remember to make time for yourself. It’s important to get some alone time in every day so you don’t always feel as though you’re performing your duties as a CEO.
- Develop your emotional intelligence. Learning more about why people feel a certain way and how you can have positive interactions with them can help put you back in control.
- Don’t take it personally. You can’t please all the people all the time; learn to accept the fact that sometimes people will walk away unhappy.
Ultimately, you aren’t going to be able to eliminate all the stressors in your life — but you can turn them to your advantage. CEOs need to be extremely mindful when managing their stress levels, as stress can come from all four corners at once. A little bit of stress is motivating, but a lot of stress can lead to poor decisions and negative social interactions. As long as you can identify why you’re feeling stressed, you can work to alleviate that stress.
A supportive network of peers and mentors can help a great deal. For the most part, stress is unnecessary; it only serves to cloud the mind. Through TEC, you can access a supportive CEO peer-to-peer network where you can learn stress management techniques from other leaders. Sign up for TEC today to begin building a path to better decisions.