Do you have a stressful job?
Higher ed. administrators tell me they are stressed because of their workloads, responsibilities, crises to solve, and other people’s expectations. They forget that while it’s true that external circumstances do trigger stress responses, these stress responses happen internally. People create their own stress. This is good news because when we create something, we have the power to change it.
What creates stress
Hearing about my clients’ stress over the years revealed that most of their stress comes from three sources.
#1 Not living in the present.
When a problem is highly likely to arise in the future, it makes sense to try to prevent it. For example, to prevent overspending or underspending, you monitor your budget throughout the fiscal year and there will be no surprises on June 30. That’s part of being a manager.
However, when you start to worry about all sorts of things that are not likely to happen, there is no positive side to your obsession. Being focused on what could go wrong in the future instead of focusing on what is happening right now, is a sure way to create an enormous amount of stress. Exaggerating concerns and catastrophizing situations is a stressful habit! The same goes for focusing on the past. If you keep thinking of what people did to you or what went wrong and you don’t know how to move on from past hurt, you will be stressed.
#2 Trying to control too many things.
As a manager and leader, you have important responsibilities. It is essential to do your best to create the best possible outcomes for events and metrics that are crucial to your institution. Obviously, you want to see high enrollment numbers, high retention rates, high student success rates and so on, but does it make sense to lose sleep over little details that didn’t meet your expectations?
If you are stressed because other leaders don’t do their jobs the way you think they should, or some of your staff members have annoying habits, or someone used the wrong font on a memo, you are creating undue stress. It is natural to have preferences but being controlling will bring you nothing but frustration, disappointment, and stress.
#3 Lacking trust in themselves and their success.
It is common for leaders to think they have to know everything, have all the answers, and know how to deal with all situations. These unrealistic expectations make them feel inadequate and insecure. What if they make a mistake? What if something goes wrong? What if someone gets upset? These leaders underestimate their ability to handle what may arise. They are not sure they are prepared or even competent enough. This pattern is closely related to seeking control. Trying to control is a way to find reassurance when we don’t trust that things will turn out well.
How to eliminate stress
Simply stop doing the things that create stress! It is easier than you think. Once you become aware of what your mind does out of habit, you can make a conscious decision to change. Changing habits requires commitment and persistence but it’s well worth the effort. Do it! Start with these 3 new habits.
#1 Become more present.
Focus on what is happening right now instead of what may or may not happen in the future. Face your workload, get organized, prioritize, do one thing at a time and don’t worry about the rest. You will feel calm and more productive. You will be less likely to make mistakes or to say something unkind to someone. You will be more productive and more effective. You’ll be amazed to see how much time you free up by no longer wasting time dwelling on the past, resisting things you can’t change, or creating anxiety about the future. And of course, your stress level will drop.
#2 Give your attention to what matters.
Get clear on priorities and goals that must be met and stop worrying about details or about how other people do things. When you focus on your responsibilities, you won’t be tempted to waste time and energy watching others and being critical. By minding your own business instead of being controlling, you will have less on your mind, experience far less frustration, and improve your professional relationships as well as your work performance. So let go of control and you will feel much better!
#3 Give yourself more credit and expect good things.
Please realize that nobody is perfect and no one knows everything. It’s ok to make mistakes sometimes. In fact that is how you’ll learn and grow as a leader. Trust in your expertise, resourcefulness, and ability to do your job well, even during challenging times. Remember what you have created and overcome throughout your career. You’ve handled difficulties more complex than your current circumstances. You know how to do your job. You got this!
I promise you, once you start living in the present, stop trying to control everything, and trust in yourself more, your whole life will transform. You don’t need to wait until you retire to feel better. You can find inner-peace right now! Remember that stress isn’t created by external circumstances but by how you respond to them.
I’d love to show you how to change your thought patterns, your habitual responses to events, and how you perceive situations when something unwanted occurs. Your mind was meant to be your servant, not your master or your tormentor! If you’d like me to facilitate this empowering transformation and help you eliminate stress, click here to schedule a free consultation.
About the author: Dr. Audrey Reille has empowered thousands of professionals through one-on-one coaching, group coaching, speaking engagements, online courses, and interviews on international telesummits. Audrey is the go-to coach for leaders in higher education administration. She empowers them to thrive by reducing stress, optimizing strategies, improving professional relationships, and developing a strong and empowered mindset.