The two key things leaders know about stress

Today leaders need to know how to ‘lead’ themselves through their own life and their daily responsibilities as leader at work.

We have a frighteningly fast pace of change and innovation, changing expectations, demands and concerns for staff and their well being and development, not to mention new ways of communicating, selling, distributing to make a difference… As well as thriving in a global financial ‘crisis’ The leader who understands a couple of things will fare better than those who don’t.

Firstly – while it might be you can influence somehow the pace and rate of change and innovation, you can’t stop it or control it. What you do have is total control over how you think about these things. As a leader you know that what and how you think about things allows you to choose a response to it.

Secondly – while all things, new, not so new, challenging, inspiring, draining, demanding come at us it is very easy to also try and think about all these things at once. You can’t, well, not very well.

Today’s inspiring and influential leaders understand these two ideas well.

To try to control is a basis of stress. To try to think or do all things at once is also a basis for stress and low performance.

Our brains are just not wired to think through a number of different and complex issues all at once.

Key steps to take:

Let go of the idea that change as we have talked about it here is by definition ’hard.’ Ask yourself:

  • How else could you view it?
  • What is perfect about the changes you are having to lead yourself and others through?
  • What is at the other side of this change that will be of great benefit – to you, to your staff, to your family, to the world?
  • Focus on the benefits and opportunities of change, your brain likes that, it puts you in a toward state and allows you to stay calm and more able to think clearly.

Now with a more useful take on pace and change start to notice what your thoughts are and deal with them one at a time – no doubt some thoughts you have you can let go of immediately.

Once you have achieved that connection to thinking about your thinking and have mastered – or at least you are working at focusing on one thing at a time, there is another strategy you could employ here.

That strategy is ‘mindfulness.’ In other words, tame your wild mind and become mindful of your environment in the moment. Now this might be sounding a bit ‘fringey’ but really, all I am saying here is take a moment to

  • breathe deeply and feel the breath enter and leave your body
  • notice what else you are feeling internally, externally
  • what are you seeing, hearing – consume your surroundings with all of your senses.

You only need to spend a minute or 2 on this to release stress in the moment thus being able to return to your focus more resourceful and connected – try it, it works, and you might just like it!

I often refer coaching clients to a great book called ‘Know Thyself’ by Dr Craig Hassed.  In it there are plenty of tools and a stress release programme that helps build mindfulness and release stress. It is perfect for leaders and managers in a fast paced or apparently stressful situation.

Gai Foskett is one of two Master Certified Coaches in New Zealand. Gai specialises in executive leadership coaching.
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