How To Handle Stressful Situations

As a leader, you’re going to face stressful situations. These situations may pop up and surprise you or you may see them coming from a mile away. Whatever the poison, you have to be ready to deal with stressful situations.

I had a stressful situation recently. How I dealt with it may help you deal with the stressful situations you will encounter as a leader.

Man in long sleeve shirt holding face

Photo by Francisco Moreno

My Stressful Situation

We have multiple servers for our business. One of them hosts our Epicor ERP system. This server is a physical, stand-alone server that has not aged gracefully.

I came into my department and faced off against a frantic co-worker. They hadn’t received orders the day before or so far that morning.

Uh oh… Something is wrong.

My stress level began to rise…

I checked the servers and everything looked okay. I began digging deeper into the server and realize there’s a problem.

Something had gone wrong that Sunday evening. We were getting a ton of event errors.

I began to work on the issue when another issue arose. There was an amber light on one of our RAID hard drives. This means the drive is failing.


My stress level begins to rise even higher…

I order a new hard drive and it arrived the next day. With it being a RAID array and a hot-swappable hard drive, I did what you do. I pulled the old drive out, put the new drive in, and then heard the wails.

Swapping out the hard drive crashed the system. We were dead in the water.

One thing after the other began to cascade into major problems. If you’ve ever worked in manufacturing, you know how important your ERP system is. Ours was down and we were unable to enter new orders, enter new jobs, log working hours, etc.

Yeah, major problems… And major stress.

How To Handle Stressful Situations

I could have freaked out. I could have quit (I mentally did multiple times). But I didn’t. I knew I had to control my level of stress.

But I had been in stressful situations before and knew how to handle a stressful situation.

1. Handle what only you can handle:

I began looking at solutions and seeing what was broken, what was failing, and what needed to be done. In each of these areas, I assessed what I could handle.

There were plenty of things I could do. Then there were the things I couldn’t do…

2. Call in help for the things you can’t handle:

You have a limited scope of knowledge. Sometimes the stressful situation is more than you can handle. What do you do in these trying times?

You call in another expert. Someone who may have more expertise than you or in a different area.

These are your go-to people when things go wrong. They help on an as-needed basis. And then they go back.

3. Figure out why things went bad:

Not only did I have to handle the situation and call in other people for an assist, I had to figure out why everything went sideways. This wasn’t easy but it also helped going forward.

Figuring out why helped me to look for solutions I might not have been able to see before. It also helped me narrow down where I needed to place my effort.

4. Make a plan of attack

Things can go sideways in a hurry. In the chaos, we often react rather than respond.

Reacting is going into a flurry of activity. It is going off of emotion. It is only adding to the chaos.

Responding is looking at the situation, stripping it of the emotions you may be feeling, and figuring out what needs to be done. Responding allows you to remove a layer of stress.

Responding also allows you to make a plan of attack. Rather than reacting haphazardly, responding helps you to look at what happened and place the pieces back together.

Use your response to make a plan of attack. Follow the plan and see the results.

5. Keep calm:

You have the ability to freak out or to stay calm. Control yourself. Show yourself who is boss.

You can use practiced breathing techniques, scripture repetition, or some other form of mental exercise to calm your nerves.

When you do this, you free yourself to truly think through the situation. Don’t let frustration, anger, or confusion make you react inappropriately.

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