Leadership expertises

Stress management

Stress management

What is stress.

In our professional (and personal) life, in a given situation, we have the ability to remain calm or to fall into a state of stress corresponding to the first three states of the following list :

  • The state of flight comparable to anxiety,
  • The state of fight comparable to anger,
  • The state of freeze comparable to a state of discouragement,

In opposition to those three stress states we can find ourselves in a state of calm.

We therefore have a one in four chance of finding ourselves in a state of discomfort or stress in any situation.

Asking ourselves the question of the place of emotions at work is asking the wrong question. Emotions are inherent to our humanity. They are inescapable. It is therefore essential to learn to listen to them, understand them, accept them and give them an adequate response.


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Stress management

Psychosocial stress.

Stress is a state of alarm in the body in the face of “physical aggression” from the environment. This stage allows the body to react to this aggression by using one of the pre-programmed (see list above) and therefore stereotyped defense modes.

If humans have retained the genetic memory of this stress reaction, they no longer reserves it only for physical aggression, which has become much less frequent over the course of the evolution of human society. Stress occurs most often in situations where survival is not in danger.

This state of alertness can be observed when speaking in public, urgently handing over files or changing jobs. Symptoms of stress usually stop soon after the stressful situation has ended.

Its appearance in situations of simple disagreement, in situations when we feel overwhelmed indicates that it has evolved. It has become psycho-emotional and the nature of the aggression can be very diverse.

The nature of stress affecting a leader in the retail sector will be completely different from the nature of stress affecting a leader in the pharmaceutical industry, for example. On the one hand, the stress will be related to the outlets and sales of its products; on the other hand, it will be related, for example, to the security of its production lines and the continuous training of its production teams.

Stress is therefore an interactive phenomenon between the organism and the situation it is experiencing. The work of the last 25 years tends to show that stress is an internal alarm signal that would testify to the implementation of strategies unsuited to the situation.

Psychosocial stress leads to the loss of intellectual means, information, energy time, efficiency.

Stress makes the sufferer impulsive and leads to closure to others.

Moreover, it leads to the repetition of problems since it is associated with the current situation as it was with others that the person considers similar. However, it is an unstable state because it fluctuates during the situation and disappears as it evolves. Understanding the mechanisms of psychosocial stress allows us to gradually and durably change our spontaneous behaviour.

Stress is indeed internal. What stresses us is our way of dealing with a situation that is not always so dramatic.

You perceive that your stress belongs to you, that it corresponds to your way of approaching the situation, not necessarily to that of your neighbour. You perceive that the neighbour’s stress is also his, that it is not contagious and that it is never good. We do not stress for the same reasons or under the same conditions. We do not perceive events in the same way, neither in their meaning nor in their intensity.

Physiological stress responds to actual physical aggression in 10% of cases.

In the remaining 90% it is of internal subjective cognitive origin. It is as if we are not or no longer able to spontaneously distinguish between a life-threatening event and a subjective annoyance coming from a nuisance.

It may be a worry, a disappointment, a failure at school, a daily conflict, negative judgments made about us by those around us. Stress is to the mind what pain is to the body: an indicator of dysfunction, but it is an indicator that must be taken seriously, not tragically, since it is avoidable and can be easily managed.

The fear of conflict, the lack of tools for managing a team, the lack of performance management tools, the lack of understanding of human behaviour, the lack of adapted communication with one’s team, the lack of self-knowledge are all points that can plunge a leader into permanent stress in the exercise of his role.

These are all areas in which it is important for any leader to develop in order to have a better understanding of the role of the leader.

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Stress management

Managing stress

A state of stress underlies an emotional state. This emotional state makes us practically incapable of resolving the situation and making the necessary changes in our way of thinking or behaving, even though it is these changes that would reduce the intensity of the emotion.

Stress can therefore disrupt our relationships by making us run away, get angry about anything (that moves), or make us give up. It is an obstacle to the use of our adaptive intelligence. Nevertheless, these are situations that can be easily managed when we have the right stress management tools.

As a leader in the financial sector, you live in permanent anxiety because you don’t know how to delegate. As a result, you spend a lot of time performing tasks that belong to your team and that take you away from your true value, which is to look for new solutions to finance activities or to reduce costs or reallocate budgets. Your lack of perspective and not daring to ask for help keeps you in trouble. Anxiety is a very bad counsellor because it does not allow for serene reflection. And you find that you oscillate between anxiety, anger and discouragement. How do you get out of this hellish loop?

Understanding the functioning of the three stress reactions and their precise objectives allows us to react appropriately when faced with a stressed person and to help them manage their stress.

As a team leader, one of the key competencies is to give feedback to your collaborators. Feedback can be critical to the actions and behaviors of your employees, but it is essential to give it to build an excellent group culture. One of the possible reactions of the person receiving the feedback is to become angry in reaction to what you say. Faced with such a reaction, what should you do?

What needs does this emotion express? What does this emotion look like physically? What are the non-verbal signs of it?

What attitudes is it wise to adopt in this situation to re-establish contact with your interlocutor? What are the attitudes not to adopt because they would make the situation worse?

It is essential for any leader in any sector to know how to recognize and manage his own emotions and also how to recognize and manage the emotions of his interlocutors.

This allows you to continue to communicate well with your collaborators, to clear up difficult situations and to solve problems when they arise in order to move towards greater well-being and performance.

At Become a Leader, we teach our participants in the leadership program to recognize and respond appropriately to different stress reactions and underlying emotions.

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