Project Manager's Job - Stress Management Part II

Let's take a step back and see - broadly what kind of stress can be around you and then what are the typical situations for project manager which puts him/her under stress. Dr. Karl Albrecht, renowned management consultant has defined four common types of stress as
# Stress Type Description
1 Time stress As the name suggest, there is a pressure to be time bound, instilling sense of fear to complete/deliver something within a stipulated time
2 Situational stress This kind of stress one observes because he is into certain scary situation and he/she has no control, over it. The situation could be emergency, inter-personal conflict, loss of status, perceived significant losses, etc.
3 Encounter stress This is peculiar kind of stress where you are worried about encountering person/situations which you have perceived to be unpredictable, unpleasant - may be based on your past experience.
4 Anticipatory stress This stress is about upcoming event or some activity that you are expected to drive/deliver/present in future. This stress is induced because of anticipation of such events
 
  1. Time stress (as name suggest, there is a pressure to be time bound, instilling sense of fear to complete/deliver something within a stipulated time)
  2. Situational stress (This kind of stress one observes because he is into certain scary situation and he/she has no control, over it. The situation could be emergency, loss of status, perceived significant losses, etc.)
  3. Anticipatory stress (this stress is about upcoming event or some activity that you are expected to drive/deliver/present in future. This stress is induced because of anticipation of such events)
  4. Encounter stress (This is peculiar kind of stress where you are worried about encountering person/situations which you have perceived to be unpredictable, unpleasant - may be based on your past experience.)
  While these are commonly defined types of stress, let's look typical work situations/reasons for project manager that leads him/her to be in a stressful situation.
  • The most common one - Unrealistic Deadlines
  • Conflicting situations which arise almost every other day
  • Constant pressure from higher management to perform and meet department/organization goal
  • Client expectations, team member's expectations and in general project ecosystem
  • Competition with peers
  • High aspirations of career progression and realization of current project situations
After-effect and symptoms of stress [1] Either because of personal interest and aspirations or being submissive to the situation, as mentioned above, a project managers deliberately or unconsciously are pushed into more stressful situation. Depending on that individual's personality and other factors (how its colleagues, family members support/don't stand after these project manager) the results of such stress can be seriously adverse. The table given below categorize and enlist some of these common symptoms and warning indicators of stress.
Cognitive Symptoms(Memory Related) Emotional Symptoms(Emotional Intelligence)
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Inability to recollect facts, situations, names, numbers, etc.
  • Interpreting situations negatively
  • Delayed and poor judgment
  • Feeling anxiousness with too many thoughts in mind
  • Being short tempered or increased short temperedness
  • Low Morale
  • When you don't feel relaxed most times
  • Be moody (unconsciously)
  • Overwhelmed feeling
  • Feeling of loneliness
  • Depression or general unhappiness
Physical Symptoms(Physical Wellness) Behavioral Symptoms(Communication, etc. traits)
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Headache/body pain
  • Other body pains
  • Upset stomach - Diarrhea/ constipation
  • Cardiovasculor Diesese
  • dizziness, Nausea
  • Chest pain
  • Frequent colds
  • Irregular eating habit (time & quantity)
  • Irregular sleeping habit (too much or insufficient)
  • Delaying, not owning responsibilities
  • Isolating onself from others
  • Frequent and uncontrolled consumption of alcohol, cigarettes, or other means
  • Habits exhibiting nervousness (eye moments, nail biting, etc.)
  Managing Stress Stress Management For Project Managers Yes, there are many ways of dealing with stress because, for each reason that cause stress, you have to take distinct approach to mitigate/eliminate it. Let's look at some of these important stress management techniques one by one. Time Management and organization skill First, one need to get organized - strive for better time management skills. This can include as basic as using To-Do Lists or, if you need to juggle with or manage multiple concurrent projects, use- online project management software like ZilicusPM. There will always be unending list of things that you need to accomplish. It will be inhuman to expect to complete all of those tasks. The only way you can work is by prioritizing those. You should be formulating matrix of Urgent & Important activities. And should be able to say NO in apt situations (or where it is warranted to alleviate unnecessary or avoidable stress). So it is critical to create reasonably balanced schedule for your daily activities; which should include planned regular breaks, whenever appropriate, you should be able to delegate part of your work to your colleagues and sub-ordinate. Conflict Resolution and People Management Skill To be able to manage people and face conflicting situations, first you need to be 'Self-aware'. That means you should be aware of yourself - how you would react under different situations. What will be your physical and emotional mental response/ reaction? You should also understand that resolving people conflict in a group will be different from resolving individual issues. Observe and understand how others respond in different/ difficult situations. So you need to be aware of others too. Learn to Relax It is a fact that you can't get rid of stress completely, from your life, but you can certainly control how much it affects you. Relaxation techniques such as meditation foster your body's response in more relaxed manner. As you will practice regularly, these activities help you in alleviating daily stress level also to remain calm and composed under pressure situation. Mediate in ten simple steps given below.
  1. Locate a quiet space where you can relax, sit comfortably without much interference
  2. De-focus at eyesight to middle distance, start taking deep breaths and close your eyes
  3. Observe your posture, start relaxing your body and muscles gradually from the top of your head to your feet and acknowledge your senses
  4. Sense your body parts from the top and now focus inside yourself, your mind. Turn the awareness into thoughts, make note of everything but do not try to judge anything.
  5. Start observing your breath. Start counting 1-10 as you inhale and when you exhale.
  6. When you inhale, think as if you are absorbing energy along with fresh air
  7. When you exhale think as if you are freeing your stress pressure along with stale air
  8. Repeat this exercise for ten to twenty minutes.
  9. Before you close the session, briefly think about things you wish to do next.
  10. Slowly open your eyes
Beside meditation this is something you should consider. Look around you
  • Yes, look around you and check which part of this situation can you control.
  • Realize that you can't control most of the outside situations
  • You need not be perfectionist all the time. Give yourself a break
  • Be ready to compromise. Just check that it is not bad at all.
Use your emotional intelligence
  • Observe and realize when you feel stressed; make a note of it
  • Do not ignore your emotions and internal connect
  • Start dealing with challenging/ stressful situation with bit of a humor
  • While communicating use non-verbal cues and convey things through body language
  Do let me know what other technique do you use to alleviate stress and found it really effective.

[1] http://www.helpguide.org/mental/stress_signs.htm
[2] http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/gallery/2011/jan/22/how-to-meditate-ten-steps-headspace