Is stress just part of management?

Here’s 3 daily habits to beat management stress in the caring industry

Let me guess your picture of management… before you became a manager:

Beautifully appointed desk in light-filled office, perfectly ticked to-do list and colour-coded calendar. Steaming hot latte that you casually sip over email.

Then come the team members, knocking at your door to gain your on-point wisdom and advice, walking away humming to themselves as they digest your awesome revelations.

Let me guess your picture of management after you actually became a manager (or took on your own business):

Desk you never get to sit at for more than 10 minutes with mobile non-stop ringing. Client-related challenges to iron out, while also trying to sort cover for staff that can’t make it.

And you now decorate with post-it notes.

Well, maybe that’s a slight exaggeration… but you get my point? The opportunities and new worlds that management can open up really are worth it! But there’s also a couple of management challenges that perhaps we don’t fully realise until we’re swimming in the management pool ourselves (case in point – we love this article from HubSpot about getting sh*t done). The great news – it’s all ‘manage-able’ (pardon the pun) if we know what to expect and how to look after ourselves. And you’re an awesome human, so it’s time to sit in the self-care chair!

Regardless of the type of organisation you work in, management comes with a few core challenges that you can be prepared for – not least of all, stress. Stress comes in many forms. It can come suddenly, or it can creep up over time. So if you’re experiencing stress at work, let’s get a few things straight first:

  • Experiencing stress doesn’t mean you’re failing or doing it wrong.
  • Experiencing stress doesn’t mean you’re not cut out for management.
  • Experiencing stress simply means you’re human, and that you care. That’s a good thing.

Stress shouldn’t be written off as ‘just part of the job’ when it comes to management. Would you shrug off a punch in the head as just part of the territory? No way! We really believe that you don’t have to be overwhelmed in business or in management. In fact, at the core of who we are is empowerment, opportunity and fun. And with the proven detrimental effects of stress on your health, we decided it was time to write about how to kick stress to the curb and take the journey towards becoming the self-caring caring professional you were meant to be.

And it all starts with simple daily habits.

We’ve selected three simple things you can do each day. They require varying amounts of time investment, but as with every habit, no matter how small you begin, consistency is the key.

Experiencing stress simply means you’re human, and that you care. That’s a good thing.

1. Do / Decide / Delegate… AND DON’T!

One simple and easy tool to declutter your brain and start your day is the Time Management Matrix (also known as the Eisenhower Matrix, or the Urgent-Important Matrix).

Simply take a piece of notepaper, draw a square and divide it into four. Use the urgent and important scales to name each of the boxes as follows:

Take a few moments at the beginning of your day or your week to categorise your to-do list (and anything else taking up brain space) into the four categories. Now use this list to determine how to attack your day or week.

Important + Urgent = DO FIRST

The tasks that land in this box are the ones you make time for today. Before you do anything else, focus on getting these ticked off your list, or at least scheduled in your diary for the day.

Important + Not Urgent = DECIDE WHEN

Activities such as self care – exercise, shopping for food (so you don’t have to buy lunch every day), and CPD. These don’t all need to be done today, but you need to schedule them in otherwise they’ll be the first to get dumped when you run short on time.

Urgent + Not Important = DELEGATE

Tasks in this category could be done by anyone, not just you. As a manager, it’s up to you to coach and challenge your team appropriately, and part of this work is to master the art of delegating. If you’ve got a capable team member/s who could handle this list, it’s time to delegate.

Not Urgent + Not Important = JUST DON’T

Social media, random cat videos, sales emails, personal calls during work time… whatever your kryptonite, just don’t! Using the matrix can help you work out just what those time wasters are that steal your attention during work hours, so you can make a plan to avoid whenever humanly possible.

This matrix has changed the lives of managers the world over! It’s a way to acknowledge the mental load you carry each day, put it on paper, and make a plan to move through it systematically – in a way that empowers both yourself and others.

2. Breathe

Changes in breathing are part of our biological response to stress. Instead of breathing from the diaphragm, we start to take short, shallow breaths that disrupt the balance of gases in our body, further exacerbating the issue.

You can take control of the messages your body is receiving by focussing on your breathing when stress sets in. And it’s a healthy daily habit that has other flow on health benefits too!

When you break for lunch, take a few minutes to focus on your breath. Place one hand on your chest and the other below your rib cage. As you take deeper breaths, start to notice and shift your breathing from the chest to the diaphragm. As you breathe out, allow the tension to leave your body and know that you’re doing your stress levels a favour.

3. Move

Moving up into management is often accompanied by sitting down in chairs a lot more!  If you’re used to more hands on caring situations in the community services context, it’s likely that you’re not moving as much as you used to.

It may seem counterintuitive to schedule time for physical activity when you already feel like there’s not enough hours in the day, but with the strong body of evidence surrounding stress and exercise – can you afford not to?

You don’t need to jog for 10 blocks – whatever your exercise flavour is, it will do the trick! The point is that when you get moving, your body gets the rush of happy hormones (endorphins) and the stress response is mediated. It also works to take your mind off the very things that may be causing the stress in the first place.

Just start somewhere

Maybe starting all three stress management habits seems overwhelming right now – so our advice is to pick just one and start there.

Management is about creating routines that support your ability to lead well and respond positively to the challenges of your day – not to create more stress because it’s so hard to fit them into your schedule!

Stress doesn’t have to be something you just accept as part of your work. You can enjoy your work! And today is the perfect time to start doing just that.

Stress shouldn’t be written off as ‘just part of the job’ when it comes to management. Would you shrug off a punch in the head as just part of the territory? No way!

Over to you

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