Seeking inspiration from stoicism to manage stress
How can you remain clam when the situation becomes tense and escapes your control? In the turbulent environments of today, the precepts of stoicism are more topical than ever.
The everyday life of managers and executives is rarely an easy one. It can become literally exhausting when the situation grows tenser and escapes their control. The Covid-19 crisis is a good example. The origin of the problem is totally outside of the company. And yet, all the dimensions of its activity are affected: production, sales, medium-term plans, strategy, etc. Furthermore, it is impossible to plan neither the duration nor the scale of the crisis.
How can the leaders react? Some levers are available to them: setting up telework to ensure the continuity of the activities, looking for alternative supply circuits to palliate the lapses of their existing suppliers, adjusting the offering and the distribution channels to face the rapid evolution of consumer expectations, etc. But other factors largely exceed their scope of influence: therapeutic advances to counter the virus, decisions by public authorities, staff contamination, etc.
Making decisions in such a context is extenuating. However solid the individuals, they are submitted to strong levels of stress, which makes them vulnerable on two fronts: their decisions are prone to biases, and their personal balance is threatened. Over time, stress generates personal withdrawal, irritability and health risks.
Yet, some individuals are less subjected to stress. Even when obstacles keep multiplying, when setbacks follow one another, they manage to take a step back. They intuitively focus their efforts on the most useful actions; they do not show excessive emotion; they maintain a constant level of energy.
Consciously or not, these individuals apply principles that date back to antique times. Formulated by Stoic philosophers—such as Seneca and Marcus Aurelius—, these principles aim at reaching spiritual balance and well-being. And, these prove to be huge assets to manage stress. Recent research in neurobiology and in positive psychology rekindle these principles, by bringing the proof of their cognitive and emotional benefits. Ancient and modern thinkers thus agree on numerous points. They notably underline the importance of adopting a pragmatic state of mind when facing events. They also insist on the reasoned management of your emotions and of your physical and mental resources.
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