Navigating the Strain of Success: Strategies for Managing High-Stress Levels

 One of life’s more frustrating paradoxes: success and stress go hand-in-hand. It’s a long way down from the top, and the higher you climb, the harder you fall. Think of the author whose first novel was a huge hit, or the rookie athlete who had a breakout year. There’s often a sophomore slump. Fear of failure and the stress of maintaining their success amps up the pressure on them.

This process starts early—you can see it in gifted kids in elementary and middle school. Things come easy for them, and when they finally hit the wall with a challenging class, it’s accompanied by meltdowns and frustration.

 Today, we’re exploring some strategies that successful people can use to manage the high-stress levels that come with success.

Create Emotional Distance

 How much of your identity is wrapped up in your work? Success often comes at the expense of work-life balance. As a result, many professionals are so caught up in the day-to-day of their job that they lose track of who they were before the work, and who they might be without it. Like a toxic relationship, every problem feels like a catastrophic threat—life or death, even when it isn’t. When the stakes are so high, it’s harder to think clearly and make good decisions. Accordingly, it’s important for successful people to maintain an identity outside of work.

 Some ways to do this include:

  • Pick up a new hobby or explore an old one.
  • Rekindle friendships outside work.
  • Start volunteering with a charity.

 You might be used to being in charge—resist that impulse outside the office. Let yourself be a contributor instead of a rock star.

photo of a woman sitting on her couch working on a laptopSet Boundaries

 Another quality of success is that it often goes hand-in-hand with a complete lack of boundaries. It’s hard to put down your phone even when you’re on vacation with your family or spending time with your friends on the weekends. Stress is a drug, and when you spend all your time looking for fires, there’s a good chance you’re going to find one.

 Create no-work windows in your life where your phone is kept on silent.

Delegate Responsibilities

 The most successful people learn at some point in their careers that it’s impossible for them to be everywhere at once. At a certain point, it’s critical to start delegating tasks to other people. Whether that’s asking your partner to pick up the slack around the house, or developing an assistant at work who can keep things running smoothly in your absence, you’ll feel less stressed knowing your life is built on a solid foundation.

 It’s a lot of extra cognitive load to manage household tasks and schedules on top of a busy work life. Some couples, especially busy professionals, find outside-the-box solutions to problems like those. Having an at-home assistant to help out a few days a week can take a lot of that stress off your shoulders. The important thing is that you find a way to offload tasks to someone you trust.


 A well-developed mindfulness practice can help you find your center and let go of stress even when it seems impossible. Stress is very forward-looking. Successful people tend to be worry warriors, with their eyes always locked on the horizon looking for signs of trouble. That kind of hypervigilance can be useful, but it’s also exhausting.

 Mindfulness teaches us to ground ourselves in the present by focusing on our physical senses. Smells, tastes, sensations, sounds, and patterns. If you feel yourself having an anxiety attack, step back, engage your senses, and watch what happens.

Schedule a Consultation

  In my practice, I work extensively with high-achieving professionals who are struggling to manage their stress and keep their work-life balance in place. While success and stress may go hand-in-hand, there are lots of strategies and techniques you can use to manage it. Reach out today for a free consultation for career or anxiety counseling.