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Too Many Plates Spinning at Once? Strategies for Dealing With Stress and Pressure as a Female Leader

As a woman in a leadership position, pressure is inevitable. For many women, stress starts to become the norm, but it doesn’t have to be this way.

When you find yourself feeling overwhelmed — or even panicked — you’ve likely taken on more than you can handle on your own.

I’m addressing some key strategies for dealing with the pressures of being a female leader and how to manage stress before it becomes a problem. 

 

How To Handle Pressure as a Female Leader

Through my years of experience as a wife, mother, and former female executive board leader, I’ve learned to thrive in pressure situations and I want to share my expertise with you.

Not only do I recognize how much more pressure we put on ourselves as women in power, but I also know how to navigate the obstacles faced by female leaders to come out on top. 

My name is Karen Parkin and I help women in leadership positions earn their seats at the table by finding balance and clarity amidst the pressures. Yes, you really can have it all, but maybe just not all of the time!

Recognize How Much You Have On Your Plate

Women tend to carry more of the mental load in both the household and the workplace. This means that we are often expected to bear the invisible pressure of ensuring everything runs smoothly.

Oftentimes, women in the workplace are expected to undertake the “softer” workplace initiatives and to do so without extra pay.

Whether that’s building a positive workplace culture through various events or making sure everyone has notes from the board meeting, women leaders find themselves carrying this load without ever asking for it.

Taking inventory of the mental load you’re carrying, prioritizing your task load, and empowering your team to take initiative is crucial to maintaining balance and alleviating pressure.

 

Make Time To Take Care of Yourself

Women in leadership positions often say they don’t have time for the gym, or that sleeping is a myth. This type of thinking can lead to serious health problems, which ultimately get you nowhere.

Forming a health habit takes 66 days, on average. 

Whether you decide to set your alarm 30 minutes earlier so you can squeeze in some exercise, or you aim for 7-8 hours of sleep each night, refocusing some of your energy on your health is imperative to your ability to handle pressure and stress.

 

Put Your Air Mask on First

We’ve all heard the in-flight safety instruction to put your air mask on before assisting those around you. 

The same goes for female leaders in a crisis. Often, women jump into the role of caregiver and fixer — both professionally and personally — without taking care of their needs first.

Crises require decisive leadership, and this is where female leaders can truly excel. By first focusing on the information available to you and your resources as a leader, you’ll be less likely to rush into judgment and try to fix it all yourself.

Effective leadership requires you to inspire others and drive collaboration through clear direction, thus taking some of the pressure off yourself to solve the problem alone. 

 

Remember Superwoman Was a Fictional Character (And She Didn’t Have Kids)

Somewhere along the line, women started to think they had to be Superwoman in both their personal and professional lives. If you read any of the comics, Superwoman didn’t have a home life and her only job was to fight bad guys.

Life isn’t a comic, and none of us are Superwoman. For female leaders, real life involves a lot of juggling and prioritizing — which means sometimes making tough decisions.

You simply can’t be everywhere at once, nor can you please all of the people all of the time.

Leadership positions may demand that personal sacrifices are made, but you have to be careful not to let that become the norm.

Let go of the idea of perfectionism and allow yourself room to make mistakes. Lean on your support systems. You really can have it all, but it won’t always be perfect — and that’s okay.

 

Set Healthy Boundaries

You’ve heard the expression, “don’t bite off more than you can chew,” but this is especially difficult for female leaders. Women must not only consider their own needs when setting boundaries, but also must consider if those needs match what others want. 

As leaders, women must negotiate when it comes to setting boundaries. Not every situation is black and white and you may have to ask yourself what the fairest approach is or whether there are alternative solutions.

If you find yourself resenting the constant demands from people, chances are you’re not setting firm enough boundaries. 

 

Reschedule the Board Meeting

Lead by example. Remember that you often have the power to reshape processes that don’t work.

Imagine you have an important board meeting scheduled, but a storm system moves in and schools, transit, and government offices are all closed. Now you find yourself scrambling with ways to make the board meeting happen and deal with having your children home for the day.

In reality, you won’t be the only one stressing over this unexpected hiccup. As a leader, it’s important to know when something can, and should, wait. 

By alleviating the pressure from your employees, you’ve not only taken the pressure off yourself, but you’ve also earned the respect of your staff. 

 

What To Do When the Plates Start To Topple

When I think of life’s responsibilities, I imagine each task as a spinning plate. When they’re all spinning perfectly, there’s little to stress about. When you add something that throws one of those plates off balance, they can all come toppling down.

Ideally, you’ll have enough space between those plates so that it’s not a colossal disaster, but this balancing act takes practice and thoughtful planning. 

 

Take Some Time Off

If you find yourself in constant crisis mode, it might be time to take a break and reevaluate. Use this time to consider: 

  • How things can be done differently
  • What tasks you can delegate; and 
  • How to create a support system.

 

It’s important to strategize during this time away, but equally important that you take the time to rest and recenter yourself before returning to work.

 

Reevaluate Your Priorities

The mental load that females carry can make it difficult to prioritize. As a result, some women feel they can have a career, but at the expense of family, and vice versa.

This isn’t the case. Think about what you’re currently filling your cup with. 

Is everything you’re pouring in serving a purpose in your life right now? Or are there some things you can put on hold or get rid of altogether?

 

Practice Stress-Management

Finding ways to practice mindfulness in your life and leadership can help you face stressful situations with clarity, compassion, and intention.

Stress management techniques come in many forms. For some, meditation does the trick. For others, escaping to nature, finding a hobby, or joining a class may help.

What’s important is that you do something that allows you to clear your mind and refocus your attention on what matters.

 

Karen Parkin Consultancy: Teaching Female Leaders How To Handle Pressure

The executive world can seem cut-throat and female leaders often put more pressure on themselves to perform perfectly — or at least better than their male counterparts.

K. Parkin Consultancy specializes in helping female executives navigate the pressures of leadership while juggling life’s other stresses.

Finding balance is possible. Contact Karen Parkin Consultancy to schedule a free consultation.