Turn your stress into a superpower! Powerful opening of packed HR Indaba 2018

Sports health coach Richard Sutton says HR professionals can be champions like tennis player Kevin Anderson.

"Stress gives you superpowers!" Over 1,600 HR professionals had made their way to the Sandton Convention Centre on 3 October for the opening keynote of the first ever HR Indaba, already the biggest learning and networking extravaganza for HR on the continent. Sports health coach Richard Sutton spoke candidly about the way he managed to guide tennis star Kevin Anderson from nearly giving up his career to becoming a grand slam winning champion. The difference was the response to stress. "If you see stress as an advantage, you can achieve amazing things."

As excited HR professionals kept streaming into the venue by the hundreds, Richard recalled a moment in 2017 when Kevin Anderson phoned him at 19h30 and told him "Rich, it's over". The tennis player didn't see light at the end of the tunnel anymore after a new injury and wanted to give up.

"He was in a very similar situation to working professionals like you. You study and work day and night towards a goal. In his case, his situation was a challenge to everything he had lived for. There was fear and anxiety and he wasn't logical."

Richard then cited from a slew of high level studies into the science of stress., which causes massive absence and illness issues in the workplace. The US economy alone is estimated to lopose 300 billion dollar through stressed professionals. The World Health Organisation (WHO) even calls stress a "global epidemic", with South Africa ranking second of most stressed industrialised countries, right behind Nigeria.

"But stress has an upside, because it reveals potential," said Richard. "Kevin would not have been able to fight so heroically during the Wimbledon final, if it had not been for his stress. Stress increases your heart rate, improves the circulation of blood to the brain and makes you more focussed. The big difference between good and bad stress is how you see it, because you can't avoid it." 

Richard called on HR professionals to make a concious decision to see stress an advantage. "You need to acknowledge your visceral signs, like sweating palms, and turn those into opportunities. You need to build a habit of reframing your stress into something positive."