Executive Coaching

Human Resources (HR) Consulting

Leadership Development

Human Capital Performance Management

DC and Virginia HR Consulting and Executive Coaching Newsletter - Issue #7

The First Step to Managing Your Stress

July seems to me to be the most stressful month of the year.  I'm not sure if it's a business cycle where people are making midyear course corrections, or whether it's because people just get busy with family, kids home from school, friends, vacations, or all of the above.  However, for me and for many of my clients, the "to-do" list in July just seems to get longer and longer.  And if any issues come up on top of all that, the stress level can get out of control.

When someone comes to me in a stressful situation, my job is to help them break down the stress into smaller, more manageable pieces.  I always very quickly do a check in on how the client is managing their physical well being.  The Corporate Athlete model calls physical capacity the fundamental building block of achieving high performance in the face of tremendous pressure.   I want to make sure that my clients at least maintain physically during times of stress, before we actually get into looking at ways to solve problems.

For me personally, I've been helping out a family member who had some major surgery earlier in the month.  I've been traveling back and forth to his home to help out, which has certainly caused me to experience some stress.  (It's definitely why this newsletter is late and a little shorter than usual.) During these times, it's pretty easy to stop exercising, eat fast food, forget to drink water, lose sleep, or fall back on a bad habit.  I've had to focus on taking my own coaching advice, and try to maintain physically so that I can effectively manage the stress.

I am certainly not asking people in to embark on a new fitness program.  Advising someone in a crisis to run 12 miles, lift weights, and lose 30 pounds would put me out of business pretty quickly.  I do advise though that people do the 5 simple things below to avoid having physical problems:

  1. Water - Studies have shown that dehydration is the #1 cause of daytime fatigue.  Drinking one extra glass of water during a stressful time will improve your energy level and ability to cope with stress.
  2. Rest - The goal of rest is to let the body recover, and clear the mind as much as possible from the day's activities.  For people who spend their days in an active role, it's important to take some time to passively rest (sit, lay down, etc.).  For those who spend their days in a sedentary way, rest actually should be physical (a walk, a swim, golf, etc.). 
  3. Food - This may not be the time to start a diet, but it is certainly the time to substitute fruit for candy, or to have an occasional healthy meal instead of a burger and fries.  A few substitutes a week will help you have more and lasting energy.
  4. Exercise - Find one way per day to get some exercise.  This may be as simple as doing some light stretching during a TV show at night, or taking the stairs once a day instead of the elevator.
  5. Bad habits - Make sure that you don't increase bad habits (drinking, smoking).  If possible, cut down a little.  A pack of cigarettes a day is a bad habit, but going to a pack and a half during stress isn't going to help.  When the stress is over, you don't want to have an even worse habit to deal with.

I'm not a doctor or nutritionist, nor do I play one on TV.  However, I deal with a lot of people in stressful situations.  I can tell you from my own experience that a few simple changes will put you in a much better position physically to start dealing with your stress.

Good luck and take care!

Jim Bowles
James Bowles and Associate