Recognising Stress And Poor Mental Health In Leadership Roles

Lucid Leadership by Rowan B. Colver

Stress is a natural part of life and without it, we will never grow. A seed must push through its case, a chick must break through its egg, a butterfly must live as a vulnerable caterpillar for the first part of its life. We are the same as these things, without difficulty to overcome we do not have the motivation to realise greater potential. In a typical lifetime, we encounter severe stress rarely. Examinations, job interviews, and other high impact situations often are the main causes. If we live with or around stressful people then we can be given more than we can cope with. Being in a leadership role requires an individual to take responsibility for something beyond the typical for us as people. A business, a movement, a group or following, and many other things can result in extra stressors in our life. We have to be able to balance the stress with time away in order to be able to handle it on a regular basis.

Some of the main results of stress excess are as follows:

  • Thoughtlessness
  • Irresponsibility
  • Social exclusion
  • Antisocial behaviour
  • Negative thoughts
  • Accident-prone
  • Catastrophism
  • Tiredness and fatigue
  • Inability to think clearly
  • Poor short-term memory

In the right proportions, stress can enable us to work to our full advantage. It can inspire us to think of new things and to look at problems differently. Too much can be a real problem that ends up harming us much more than helping.

In order to be mindful of our stress levels, we need to be able to recognise changes in our mood, inner voice, and ability to focus on a problem. Our direct line to our biological state is how we feel. The body is much more in tune with our needs, especially when we are under the direction of others. Listening to our feelings and emotions can help us identify stress and make choices that prevent build-up.

Listen to your feelings but don’t let them control you

The majority of the time, especially when starting something new, we are not successful. We can create something brilliant, or that we think is brilliant, and then it's sent out into the world. The world pays no heed, or worse, the world picks it up and chucks it in the bin. That’s only to be expected, we need to learn the what and the how via trial and error. However, when confronted with this situation on a regular basis, stress can manifest.

Guilty Feelings

Yes, people look up to us. Others may have warned us not to try and we ignored them. Both of these people are a potential source of guilt. We need to succeed in order to give ourselves and our loved ones the lives we deserve. Of course, if we do not do this despite our best effort and intention it can feel disempowering and we feel responsible. The best way to handle guilt is to make sure you project your efforts in all the directions you can in a balanced way. Any more is asking too much. Remember that unless you do not do all you can within reason to achieve success, your guilt is a conclusion you’re not really qualified to give. Your health is much more precious than any reward gained from hard work. If you find yourself regularly working beyond your limit because you feel guilty, try to remember that you are damaging a part of yourself. It’s too high a price.

Solitude And Loneliness

Do you remember being at school and being asked to knock on the staff-room door, or were you ever sent to see the headteacher about something? Even if it was completely innocent, you are likely to have been a little nervous. You respected and possibly even feared these people for no other reason than their authority over you. Leaders, therefore, have to get used to being the person people are wary of even when they’re completely nice. Building strong and long-lasting relationships takes time, people need to get over their prejudices and that takes as long as they need.

Often what you consider to be a genuine conversation about your life can be interpreted as a sales conversation. Imagine having little to your name but a viable and well-thought-out business. You just need people to use it properly. It can become so important to you that in your eyes, it’s a life and death situation. The death of your dignity, your dream, your plan for a better house. So we make every effort to communicate this immediate need to those who you think should care. All they hear is, buy my product, spend your money, grift, spin, etc. It’s not their fault, it’s a heuristic thinking process that, if you can admit it, even you go through when someone talks about their business. It hurts when people don’t listen and don’t take you seriously, even if you’re truly concerned about it and consider what you say to be very important.

This means that we must make amends to what we talk about, try to take away the part about you being a business person and people will be a lot more comfortable talking with you informally.

Anger And Sadness

We tend to swing one way or the other. Anger manifests when we feel indignant towards the people around us. From our perspective, we’ve done everything right and although we don’t want to manipulate or control people, we’d like a few to take notice of our message and business. If they’re not doing this we can become angry with them and the world as a whole. We can also become angry with ourselves, demanding more from us than we can actually produce. Other people take it on board as sadness. They feel disheartened and hurt by the lack of care from those around them. It endures as a dark shadow that cloaks all future perceptions. We normally feel both of these things together and tend to focus on one or the other. One is from a place of power and the other a place of responsibility. Both of these virtues can be used in unison to help us to navigate but when out of balance, they can cause a cascade of unhelpful thinking patterns.

Prepare For The Worst And Plan For The Best

Expectation is the root of all heartache. Lack of foresight is the root of all failure. We can hold the two ideas at once in our mind that we are learning how to be successful at what we do while practising our knowledge in the field. Our efforts are learning aids and our results are the feedback from the world. Provided we listen to the right feedback and take the right lessons, we can only ever make good progress. By acknowledging that nothing is set in stone before the stone is cut, we can accept our drawbacks and failures as part of the genuine path to hard-earned success.

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Rowan Blair Colver

Rowan Blair Colver

Music writer and humanities educator from Sheffield in England. Democracy of philosophy, comments are welcome. ko-fi.com/rowanblaircolver