How to Survive Stress and Thrive

Carleton is an Associate Director Portfolio Management in Queensland, Australia.

Your first deliverable is overdue; the CEO has reassigned the star on your team to a special project, and you don't know when she will be back; the accountant thinks your project should be cancelled; and to top it all off, you still have to sort out that problem with the dog when you get home. Welcome to another day in the life of a project manager.

Projects are a pressure cooker. Cook up a schedule, throw in a limited budget, stir in a few opposing personalities and presto! You have a stressful environment. This can be daunting for the new project manager--and sometimes even for those with more experience.

Know when you are stressed
Stress is a personal thing; what is unendurable to one project manager may be a minor irritation to another. Experienced project managers develop a certain equanimity that leaves them calm and in control, even when the project is going off the rails. This is not some mystical ability, but rather the mark of a person who has learned to manage the stress that comes with the job.

Every project carries a degree of stress. Stress in itself is not a bad thing if the level of stress is not too high--we need a challenge to hold our interest. The right level of challenge is good stress, also called eustress; it energizes us and keeps us motivated.

It is when the level of stress goes over what is tolerable to us that we begin to struggle. …

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