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From waking up to a pessimistic mindset, to getting kids out the door and from dealing with demanding clients to motivating uncooperative colleagues - stress seems to be an inevitable part of our daily lives - and that's before you ever add traffic into the mix.

It used to be cool to say: “I’m so stressed”, like an executive badge of honour, letting colleagues or peers know how busy you and your firm were. But really – stress isn’t cool.


According to the Mayo Clinic common effects of stress, on your body, your mood and your behaviour, include everything from fatigue to lack of motivation and from angry outbursts to over or under eating. It also causes headaches, sleep problems and digestive issues.

So how can we manage it?

It used to be cool to say: “I’m so stressed”, like an executive badge of honour, letting colleagues or peers know how busy you and your firm were. But really – stress isn’t cool.

1. Breath

When we’re stressed or just busy the tendency is take shallow, short breaths. These shallow, short breaths tell the brain, which in turn confirms to the body, that yes there is indeed something to stress about.

Instead, for a week, set some reminders on your phone to check in on your breath. Notice is it shallow or deep? Once you’ve taken the three seconds to check-in, take a long inhale for 5, 6 or 7 seconds and lengthen your exhale to 8, 9 or 10 seconds. Ever watch Johnny Sexton lining up for a kick?

When you slow down your exhale so it’s longer than your inhale you’re telling your brain and your body that you are OK.

2. Mindset 

Having a negative mindset or thinking in worse-case-scenario terms is a big stressor. There are two practical things you can do to overcome our common negativity bias.

One: when you catch yourself having a pessimistic point of view take out a sheet of paper or even open a word doc and right down any evidence to the contrary; times deals went through in the past, occasions you survived that you thought would cost you your business. Do you ever see a coach or a captain telling a team in a pre-match pep talk how terrible it’s going to be out there? No. Negativity does not motivate.

Two: Another thing I personally do is exercise. For me it’s weights, for other people it’s swimming or walking. Find an exercise that you enjoy that can fit into your week, because the endorphins you get afterwards will certainly help you get through a stressful situation or bounce back from a challenging one. Nothing makes me forget about stress like lying under 125kg (my max bench press) and trying to get that damn bar back up. Trust me and try it, very little is going through your mind other than survival.

3. Move

Next time you feel the urge to log on to Twitter or a news site for a little breather or to channel your procrastination check out this two-minute video of a polar bear instead. When animals in the wild have been chased, and escaped a predator, they will shake off the excess stress. In human terms, our predators can be our inner critic, a boss, an unhelpful colleague or a challenging situation in work. Get up from your desk and go up and down a few flights of stairs, go for a brisk five-minute walk to some fast-paced music or simply stamp your feet on the ground to release some of that excess stress.

4. Time & Traffic

Here’s something I do specifically. Set your meetings for early in the morning or else mid-morning. Avoid bottlenecks of traffic at 8.30am if you can. This might mean starting work earlier, taking a working lunch so you beat the evening traffic, cycling instead of taking the car or having an honest chat to your boss about how to make your commute work better for the office-at-large. Some people I’ve talked to about this have an agreement with their team or boss. If you don’t or they are unwilling to listen, leave. See my other blog on workplace flexibility!

5. Calls

Phone calls and communication is another big stressor, especially when you’re time-poor. Anyone who knows me or who does business with me, knows I like to use my car as an office. Invest in a good pair of earphones and arrange calls for times when you know you’ll be on the road. That way you can get things ticked off the to-do list before ever having to sit down at your computer.

6. Communication 

Lastly, we are social animals. Friction or tension among staff and colleagues is one of the biggest stressors out there. And even though we are social animals, our communication skills can sometimes desert us. Talk. Talk. Talk. In NASA, they have a HR principle of over-communicating to staff, telling them exactly what is going to happen, when it’s going to happen, how it’s going to happen and how they’ll be affected. Staff are communicated with at all times. There is no room for ambiguity or for the build-up of resentments. NASA’s rule is: You can never over-communicate. NASA, has, after all, landed a motorised vehicle on Mars, so they must be doing something right.

Hope this helps in some small way 🙂

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