What's your stress score?

Keith Tatley

Signs of stress to look out for and how to manage them 

Stress isn’t the same for everyone. Some people excel under pressure (this is called healthy eustress), while others suffer from distress. What makes the difference is our ability to cope with pressure. When pressure exceeds our ability to manage stress then we suffer from distress with serious health and performance effects. What I will share with you are the top 5 signs of stress to look out for so you know how to spot stress and manage it.


PS: Find out your stress score with this online interactive evaluation - this should take less than 5 minutes

Think back over the course of the last week:

1. Did you experience any of the following symptoms: headaches, chest pain, muscle tension, nausea, or indigestion?

People think of stress as mental / emotional, but the thing is your body releases stress hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline which can cause serious long term health issues. In the shorter term, stress can manifest with physical symptoms such as troubles digesting food, headaches, nausea & tension.

Tip: Change your stress flight/fight response to a rest/repair response in just ten minutes by doing a stress release meditation right at your desk

2. Did you feel like there wasn't enough time to get everything done?

Stress comes from overwhelm. It will help to quantify, prioritize and reduce the pressure.

Tip: Write all of your tasks down to get them out of your head. Pick your top 3 priorities and only focus on these until you can complete some to make space for more. Hint: Align your priorities with your boss so that you can be sure that you are working on the right things.

Further resources: Questions you must ask your boss in One on One Meetings.

Bonus for bosses: Is your overwhelm coming from trying to do everything yourself? Follow the guide “How to identify what to develop” in the Ultimate Guide to Delegation 

3. Did you struggle to stay motivated and focused

Having clear priorities will help you to keep your motivation and focus. If you feel like you can’t concentrate because there is too much going on then this is a sign of what the yogis call “your monkey brain”. Essentially our brain hasn’t been trained to deal with all of our modern distractions (smartphone, social media, email etc. etc.). And your mind exists in an overexcited state like a monkey swinging from tree to tree.

Tip: Sometimes a little bit of success helps to build momentum. Break your big priorities into smaller tasks and do one right away. 

Helpful Resource: Train your monkey brain :-). Meditation is training for your mind so that you control your thoughts, instead of your thoughts controlling you. A single meditation can calm your brain into a focused state and regular meditation practice will train it to stay there. See this example of brain training for focus. 

4. Did you feel like the odds were against you?

Feeling all alone without hope is a distressing place to be. A problem shared is a problem halved. 

Tip: I encourage you to have regular, frequent one on ones with your boss to talk over work issues and get the advice and support you need. After all, the best bosses are those bosses who know how to listen and coach us through our problems. But it’s not always appropriate to share all of your troubles with your boss. Working with a mentor will give you an independent ear and helpful advice / support.

Helpful Resource: How to work with a Mentor

PS: Stress can be a serious issue with significant physical and mental health impacts. Don’t be afraid to seek expert medical / counselling help.

5. Do you experience fatigue and/or struggle to fall or stay asleep?

Dealing with stress can be a double edged sword because when we are stressed, it makes it more difficult to deal with the problems we need to. And problems then build up, causing more stress.

Sleep troubles are usually some form of low level anxiety from an overactive mind. Dealing with the problems that are keeping us awake is the best way to fix sleep, but for the problems we can’t avoid we need to build up our resilience to manage stress.  


Tip: Eat the frog: Got an unpleasant task / confrontation that you have been avoiding? Deal with this first and everything else will seem easier by comparison. For those problems that aren’t so easy to chase away, use meditation to manage your stress

Wrapping up: Stay Aware, Stress is Cumulative

It’s impossible to avoid stress because life has ups and downs. Sometimes everything seems to happen at once and we find ourselves struggling to deal with life and this is when the usual pressure of life manifests itself in distress. What suffers is our happiness, our work and our health. Being stressed can make it less pleasant for others to be around you too.

Experiencing the occasional symptom is little concern, but experiencing several of these symptoms, frequently during the week is more of a cause for concern. Be aware that the effects of stress are cumulative. Over time stress can have serious physical health effects such as heart disease, obesity, diabetes and more. Stress also causes mental pressure which can contribute to anxiety and depression.

Stay aware of the signs of stress so you can spot the early symptoms, before they become an issue. If you think you may be suffering from stress then take the online stress assessment to get a more detailed evaluation

About the author:

Keith Tatley CA(SA) founded Manager Foundation and Karm. Academy to help people with the soft skills they don’t teach you in school. This includes skills such as Effective One on One Meetings, Performance Communications and Delegation. If you would like to start your journey to become a better boss, then find out your BOSS Superpower now.

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