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Tessa van Nes

'Consciously working on my stress has changed my life'

For over 25 years, I have held managerial and leadership positions in large (corporate) organizations. These were amazing roles where I collaborated with fantastic people and learned a lot.

But I sometimes found it quite challenging. I felt responsible and wanted to do a good job. When things got tense, I worked harder. The harder I worked, the less I could put my work into perspective, and the more stress I experienced. I felt rushed, like I had to do everything, became more emotional, irritated more quickly, and felt unrest and tension in my body. Because I was so busy in my head, I had less space for what others needed.

In short, the stress had a negative impact on the very qualities that were my strengths as a leader: my interpersonal, social, and communication skills.

Additionally, I also suffered from various physical ailments and was often tired.

I was aware that these issues were possibly caused by tension, but still, I often found it difficult to maintain that balance of mental calm and physical relaxation.

In 2020, during the Corona pandemic, I was treated for cancer. That was a stressful period. When I recovered, the stress didn’t immediately lessen. My mind was still very busy, and I found it very difficult to relax. I realized how much stress had become part of my system.

I decided that this was not a good foundation to return as Digital & Technology Director at Heineken and that I wanted to do things differently from now on.

I quit my job and delved into stress and its impact on the brain and body. I discovered that stress has a much greater impact on us than I had always realized, both physically and mentally. Some estimates by doctors suggest that 75-90% of our health complaints are caused or exacerbated by stress.

I found out that the mental stress we experience - for example, through emotions - always leads to a physical reaction in the body. Your heart rate and breathing speed up under stress, and the brainwaves in your brain change. These physical reactions can be measured, making stress - and its extent - visible. This is called biofeedback.

I began experimenting with various biofeedback measurement instruments and different methods to reduce stress, so I could objectively understand what was happening in my brain and body. This way, I could teach my body and mind to learn faster.

A few years have passed, and I feel like a different person.

I no longer feel rushed, have peace and space in my mind to see things clearly and feel better. Therefore, I can set priorities and boundaries much better and make time every day to keep it that way. I can handle situations that would have caused me tension in the past much better.

Of course, it's not that I never experience stress anymore. Stress isn't always negative; it helps us perform. Starting my own business, for example, can be quite exciting😉. But now, I recognize it much earlier and have the tools to calm my mind and body, so the impact is much less significant.

In general, I feel happier, more effective, more positive, more energetic, and more balanced. My physical complaints have largely disappeared or decreased. Because I am no longer just running around and can think clearly and effectively about everything, I see things more sharply and make clearer and better choices. I have chosen to help others make better choices too, so they are no longer overwhelmed by tension and (work) stress. Because I believe everyone deserves a healthier, happier life with less stress!

 

What else you should know about me

I understand the challenges of large (corporate) organizations and the challenges that leadership and management positions bring.

My strength lies in creating a safe environment where people dare to be vulnerable. I am interested and involved and can connect a team to work together on reducing stress and improving well-being.

It helps to make things as tangible, transparent, and measurable as possible.

My vision on stress in organizations

Workplace stress is a growing problem that leads to higher absenteeism, reduced performance, employee dissatisfaction, and turnover. This results in high costs for the employer.

Leaders play a crucial role in this. Creating a safe environment for employees is a prerequisite for reducing stress. But if a leader experiences stress themselves and reacts more emotionally, it becomes very difficult (if not impossible) to create a safe situation for employees. Therefore, it is essential that leaders work on their own stress first.

Additionally, employees can take many actions to lower their stress levels and increase their resilience to stress. This will lead to greater well-being and better performance.

Measuring stress helps to accelerate this process.

 

If you knew me, you would know that I:

  • Love traveling! Together with my partner, I travel all over Europe with our camper.

  • Laugh too loud (but have a lot of fun in my life 😊).

  • Love chocolate. My day isn’t complete without a piece after dinner.

  • Take walks in the dunes as often as possible - luckily, they are in our backyard.

  • Love singing, preferably very loudly. It gives me a sense of freedom and makes me happy. I used to dream of becoming a singer, but now I have more realistic expectations 😉.

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