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Managing stress and increasing happiness

Bryony has very kindly written us a blog about managing increased stress and happiness. Her business Bryony Rowntree Coaching helps individuals and businesses through 1 2 1 coaching, team coaching and training. Aiming to make people have a better relationship with themselves and others.

Now over to Bryony…

Stress isn’t necessarily a bad thing. We need a certain level of stress to keep us going in life.  But if we don’t release it or the nature of it is distress (as opposed to eustress which is healthy and fulfilling) it negatively impacts our health, wellbeing, relationships and work.

Making adjustments and putting things in place for your team to manage stress and increase happiness is fantastic and needs to be a norm in business practice but it is crucial that they are in line with your aim.  Do they make a difference? Or are they well-intentioned but slightly off base?

Having things done to us is often a stressor in itself, so giving things proper consideration and inviting input, is deeply important and will make all the difference (spoiler – this is one of my tips below!)  And, it’s okay for it to be a work in progress.  In fact, by nature of the beast, it will be.  Humans, individually and collectively, evolve, as do our needs and, well, as does life in general.

So, to help you in your quest of helping your people manage stress and feel happier at work, here are some tips:

Start with yourself

It is all well and good putting great things in place for your employees but if you are not working and living in a way that helps you manage your stress, your team is not going to follow suit.

Key factors to think about for yourself:

  • Taking regular breaks and incorporating nourishment into them, whether that is having a stretch, going for a walk, closing your eyes for 5 mins and focusing on your breathing, rehydrating yourself or eating without simultaneously catching up with emails

  • Focus on what you can control not on what you can’t control – this is a game changer in managing stress levels

  • Set clear boundaries on your working hours…and stick to them

  • Develop your self-awareness.  In particular, get curious about what your stressors are, what your stress signatures are (i.e. how stress shows up in you.  For me, it is tense jaw muscles and getting snappy with people!) and what your healthy stress relievers are.

  • Think about what you are saying yes and no to and if you are willing to shift a deadline/ask for help/find a different way of approaching your work for the sake of your wellbeing.

If people you lead, witness you taking your wellbeing seriously, valuing yourself and enjoying your time in and out of work, things will naturally start to shift within your organisation.  People will respond to you as a role model and have permission-in-action to value their own wellbeing.


Ask your employees what would help. Start simple, for example, asking, “If one thing were to be different in the way we run things, what would it be?”  Giving space for people to voice what they find stressful is important but focusing on what can be done to improve things protects from it becoming ‘ranty’ or dwelling, instead moving towards clarity and change.

The most successful, appreciated and trusted EAPs I have heard of are those that have been created through consultation, with a core cog of people coordinating conversation, implementation and evaluation.  EAPS put in place without the Ask, risk not having the positive and supportive impact that was intended.

If course, it’s not just about EAPs, it’s about the whole organisation as a living system.  And it’s a living conversation, always evolving.

Let people know they are valued

Feeling undervalued is one of the top reasons people leave their jobs. It can lead to significant stress and unhappiness. I regularly have clients bringing this into their coaching sessions. And often the stress is in the not knowing if they are valued or not. Yes, they can do something about this (asking for feedback and shifting their mindset) but again, it starts with you as the leader.

It is easy to slip into only giving feedback when someone needs to improve in their work somehow, forgetting that, as sociable animals, we need positive feedback too. In fact, in her brilliant book Time to Think, Nancy Kline recommends a 5:1 ratio of appreciation to criticism. The wise advice to treat children as the people you believe they can become applies to how we relate to anyone we are leading or guiding.

Connection and laughter

Building relationships with the people we work with is key.  We all need to be seen as more than our role, any labels we carry or how we present.  Plus, we are pack animals.  We spend a significant part of our lives working; that time and those relationships need to be socially and relationally fulfilling.  Besides, well connected teams trust each other more and work much better than those teams full of disconnect.

Giving time for laughter fuels our energy, is a significant stress reliever and certainly increases happiness and, I would argue, productivity.

However, as we are all so much more aware now, this is harder to nurture when working remotely and so takes creative thinking and conversation along the way about how best to support it.

Know What You Want

Putting all the detail aside, if what you are working towards in your organisation is lower stress levels and increased happiness, use that as your North on your compass.  Keep checking back with it along the way and ask yourself if each decision will keep you in that direction.

My North is working towards deep smile lines in old age.  Because this is so clear to me, I can check things against it quite easily and am much less likely to end up down routes that are taking me away from that.

This is not about writing a policy and putting it in a cabinet.  It is about integrating improvements throughout the whole living system of your organisation. It is responding to changes, not reacting to them. When there is a change in the market, a new project starts, members of the team are off, or a pandemic hits, it is asking, “What do we need, to sustain us through this?”

Stress will always come in life, it is about consistently releasing it, in healthy, nourishing ways; giving space for more happiness, fulfilment and joy.

More about Bryony

Bryony works with individuals and teams to open up awareness, so that space is created for wiser choice; increasing alignment, resilience, confidence, clarity and courage, resulting in improved capacity, relationships, wellbeing and mental health.  She does this through 121 coaching, team coaching and training, in particular Mental Health First Aid, Mental Health Awareness and Listening Skills.

Bryony’s underlying focus is about people having a better relationship with themselves and each other; impacting their fulfilment and engagement with life and work and their trust in themselves.

She predominantly works with people who are supporting and guiding others (employees/clients/service users/family…) and who are working for a better world.  The main reasons people work with her as a coach are for developing confidence, managing overwhelm and finding their way through transitions, including returning to work.  Through working with Bryony, they develop their physical, emotional and relational intelligence.

Her coaching is described as wise, spacious, playful, and life-changing.

If you would like to learn more, and how Bryony can support you or your team she would love to chat